It would be the first U.S. splashdown in darkness since Apollo 8′s crew returned from the moon in 1968.
“Thanks for your hospitality,” Hopkins radioed as the capsule undocked 260 miles (420 kilometers) above Mali.
Hopkins, the spacecraft commander, rocketed into orbit with his crew on Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Their replacements arrived a week ago aboard their own Dragon capsule — the same one that launched SpaceX’s first crew last spring.
The four should have been back by now, but high offshore wind kept them at the space station a few extra days. SpaceX and NASA determined the best weather would be before dawn.
The delays allowed Glover to celebrate his 45th birthday in space Friday.
“Gratitude, wonder, connection. I’m full of and motivated by these feelings on my birthday, as my first mission to space comes to an end,” Glover tweeted.
Saturday night’s undocking left seven astronauts at the space station: three Americans, two Russians, one Japanese and one French.
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