SpaceX's Crew-7 capsule returns 4 astronauts to Earth with predawn splashdown (video)

The four astronauts of SpaceX's Crew-7 mission returned to Earth early Tuesday morning (March 12), with their homecoming broadcast live.

Crew-7's Dragon capsule, Endurance, splashed down at 5:50 a.m. EDT (0950 UTC) off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. The recovery crew arrived at the capsule around three minutes later, with thermal cameras tracking the recovery operations. 

Related: SpaceX Crew-7 astronauts undock from ISS for return to Earth

Recovery crews hook up the Dragon capsule to lift it from the sea off the coast of Pennsecola Florida (Image credit: NASA)

The parachutes that had guided Endurance back to Earth were recovered with the recovery crew checking for both pyrotechnic residuals and poisonous materials. After these safety checks, the Dragon capsule was lifted from the Gulf of Mexico onto a recovery ship at 6:13 a.m. EDT (1013 GMT) using a hydraulic lift. 

A thermal screenshot showing the sucessfully deployed four parachuettes of the Dragon Capsule as it makes its descent on March 12 (Image credit: NASA)

The Crew-7 astronauts exited the Endurance Dragon capsule at 6:36 a.m. EDT (1036 UTC), with Andy Mogensen assisted from the capsule first. After 199 days in low-Earth orbit and their descent back to Earth, the crew will visit a medical facility to check their health.

Andy Mogensen exist the Crew-7 Dragon capsule first (Image credit: NASA)

Endurance undocked from the International Space Station on Monday (March 11) after the astronauts' 6.5-month stay on the orbiting laboratory to begin Crew-7's journey home. 

SpaceX's Dragon Endurance spacecraft carrying the four Crew-7 astronauts approaches the International Space Station for docking on Aug. 27, 2023. (Image credit: NASA)

Crew-7 consists of NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Satoshi Furukawa and Konstantin Borisov, a cosmonaut with Russia's space agency, Roscosmos.

The mission launched to the ISS atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Aug. 26, 2023 and arrived at the orbiting complex a day later. The liftoff kicked off the first spaceflight for Moghbeli and Borisov and the second for Mogensen and Furukawa. 

The Crew-7 quartet overlapped briefly with their successors, the four astronauts of SpaceX's Crew-8 mission, which arrived at the ISS last Tuesday (March 5).

A thermal image showing the Crew 7 Dragon capsule floating ibn the sea off the coast of Pennsicola Florida on March 12 (Image credit: NASA)

As those mission names suggest, SpaceX has now launched eight operational astronaut flights to the ISS for NASA (plus one crewed test flight to the orbiting lab). The agency selected SpaceX for this job in September 2014.

Aerospace giant Boeing got a commercial crew contract back then as well, but has not yet flown an astronaut mission for NASA. That should change soon, however: The first astronaut flight of Boeing's Starliner capsule is scheduled to launch in early May.

That mission, called Crew Flight Test, will send two astronauts to the ISS for a roughly 10-day stay.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.