Capping a 20-day journey that ended in the launch of a gigantic superconducting supercollider in Texas, the Crew Dragon capsule safely returned to Earth on Sunday, safely docking with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
From there, the capsule — which carried off-duty NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Kate Rubins along with NASA flight engineer Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko — was set on a path to the Soyuz capsule to take them home to Earth.
To the delight of reporters covering the launch, the capsule’s crewmembers finished their mission of nearly four months in comfortable and triumphant fashion.
[The mission] went very, very well,” Ivanishin said, taking a drag on an oxygen tank after docking with the space station. “We’re really very happy.”
Their return home coincided with another significant step for the American space program.
In a milestone for the country’s comeback after the embarrassment of the loss of the Apollo 1 crew capsule in 1967 and the shut down of its space program in the early 1970s, the rocket lifting the capsule toward space carried a 6-foot gold plated plaque memorializing the return of those earlier astronauts from the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“Houston, we have a problem.” Those three words were uttered by the first of three crewmembers to make it back safely after the first moon landing, Alan Shepard, on July 20, 1969.
As this mission came to an end, Shepard’s words echoed once again.