THE WOODLANDS, Texas — A Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down early March 12, returning a multinational crew after more than six months of the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft Endurance splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast from Pensacola, Florida, at 5:47 a.m. Eastern after a normal reentry. The spacecraft had undocked from the station more than 18 hours earlier.

Endurance’s return marked then end of the 199-day Crew-7 mission, which launched last August. On board were NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov. All four were out of the capsule less than an hour after splashdown.

That post-splashdown recovery is among the fastest for the 12 Crew Dragon splashdowns to date. “The SpaceX team did a great job of getting the Dragon capsule out of the water and back on to the ship. They continue to get better and better,” said Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager, in a call with reporters. He said favorable weather conditions, with very light winds and calm seas, likely also contributed to the speedy recovery.

The splashdown completed the third flight of Endurance, all long-duration ISS missions. Benji Reed, senior director for human spaceflight programs at SpaceX, noted at the briefing that the capsule has spent 534 days in space, more than any crew-rated vehicle in history.

Crew-7 departed the ISS nearly a week after the arrival of their replacements, Crew-8, on another Crew Dragon spacecraft named Endeavour. NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin will stay on the ISS for the next six months.

Endeavour, Reed added in the call, will overtake Endurance’s current record, with 476 days and counting in space. “The Dragons are a workhorse in the industry.”

The return of Crew-7 frees up a docking port on the station for a cargo Dragon mission, CRS-30, scheduled for launch later this month. That vehicle will remain docked to the station for a month before it returns to Earth. It will be followed by the first crewed flight by Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, now scheduled for early May.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...