Four astronauts arrived back on Earth late Monday when their SpaceX Dragon capsule touched down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. The capsule was hoisted from the water by a recovery ship, and within an hour of splashdown, the four astronauts were aboard the ship, celebrating.
The astronauts — NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan's Akihiko Hoshide, and Thomas Pesquet of France — spent 200 days aboard the International Space Station, and their eight-hour ride home was on a capsule without a working bathroom. The crew wore diapers, but they took the indignity in stride, calling it one last challenge on a mission that had a few, including huddling in the SpaceX capsule ready to jettison after a new Russian lab's thrusters accidentally propelled the ISS into a spin. The astronauts also conducted four spacewalks, made tacos from space-harvested chili peppers, and hosted a Russian movie crew.
The four astronauts were supposed to come back after their four replacements arrived on the ISS, but NASA reversed the flight order due to bad weather and an undisclosed medical condition of one of the astronauts. The next team will launch for the ISS as early as Wednesday for a six-month mission that will include hosting the first two groups of space tourists arriving in December and February.