Four astronauts have landed safely back on Earth as their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule splashed down off the coast of Florida.
They were recovered from the ocean by a ship after spending more than six months on board the International Space Station.
While orbiting the Earth at an altitude of around 408km the astronauts helped conduct hundreds of experiments – but a mishap affecting the capsule’s toilet made the 20-hour home journey tricky.
The crew were instructed that as the urine storage tank was out of order – with fluid leaking beneath the floor boards – they should instead use space nappies.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur described the situation as “suboptimal” but manageable last Friday.
“Spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges,” Ms McArthur said during a news conference from orbit. “This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission. So we’re not too worried about it.”
Engineers determined that the capsule had not been structurally compromised by the urine and was safe for the ride back.
On the culinary side, the astronauts grew the first chilli peppers in space – “a nice morale boost”, according to Ms McArthur.
They got to sample their harvest in the past week, adding pieces of the green and red peppers to tacos.
“They have a nice spiciness to them, a little bit of a lingering burn,” she said. “Some found that more troublesome than others.”
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet told reporters that the past six months have been intense in space.
The astronauts conducted a series of spacewalks to upgrade the station’s power grid, endured inadvertent thruster firings by docked Russian vehicles that sent the station into brief spins, and hosted a Russian film crew – a space station first.
Also returning with Ms McArthur and Mr Pesquet were NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
One American and two Russians remain on the space station following their departure.
In normal circumstances a flight with their replacements would arrive first – in order to share tips on living in space – but Kimbrough said the remaining NASA astronaut will fill in the newcomers.