For the first time in about six months, Richland native Mike Hopkins is breathing fresh air again. He and three other astronauts are back on U.S. soil after living aboard the International Space Station since last November.

Spacecraft undocks from International Space Station (Photo by Alisa Nelson during NASA broadcast)

Weather forced NASA to delay the journey home.

“Thanks for your hospitality. I’m sorry we stayed a little bit longer. We’ll see you back on Earth,” said Hopkins after the spacecraft undocked from the floating structure Saturday evening.

Their space capsule landed in the water off the Gulf of Mexico around 2 a.m. Sunday. According to NASA, the landing is the first night splash down of a U.S. space crew since Apollo 8’s return in the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968.

Space capsule prepares to splash down (Photo by Alisa Nelson during NASA broadcast)

Hopkins – nicknamed Hopper – commanded the crew that is part of the first manned operational space flight of a U.S. commercial shuttle. They hold a record for the longest time in space by an American crewed capsule of 168 days.

Joining him on the voyage were NASA astronauts Shannon Walker and Victor Glover, as well as Soichi Noguchi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Hopkins had been training for this mission for more than two years. The assignment marks the second time in space for him.

Hopkins steps out of space capsule (Photo by Alisa Nelson during NASA broadcast)

“For SpaceX and the NASA teams, on behalf of Crew 1 and our families, we just want to say thank you. We want to say thank you for this amazing vehicle Resilience. We said it before the mission and I’m going to say it again here afterwards – it’s amazing what can be accomplished when people come together. Finally, I’d just like to say quite frankly, you all are changing the world. Congratulations. It’s great to be back,” said Hopkins.

He gives a little “Back on Earth” dance after exiting the capsule:

Hopkins has family in southern Missouri’s Richland and in the Lake of the Ozarks area of central Missouri.

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