A team of four astronauts, including Satoshi Furukawa of Japan, returned to Earth on Tuesday in a SpaceX craft following a six-month mission to the International Space Station.

Furukawa, also a medical doctor, was part of a team with NASA's Jasmin Moghbeli, Andreas Mogensen of Denmark and Konstantin Borisov of Russia. The Crew-7 mission came to an end after the SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed safely into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida at 5:47 a.m.

Screen grab taken from a NASA broadcast shows Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa (white suit) leaving the SpaceX Dragon capsule off the coast of Florida on March 12, 2024. (Kyodo)

"This international crew showed that space unites us all. It's clear that we can do more -- we can learn more -- when we work together," Bill Nelson, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said in a statement.

"The science experiments conducted during their time in space will help prepare for NASA's bold missions at the Moon, Mars, and beyond, all while benefitting humanity here on Earth," he said.

It marked the agency's seventh commercial crew rotation mission since 2020, when SpaceX first carried NASA astronauts to the ISS.

Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa waves on a ship off the coast of Florida after disembarking a SpaceX Dragon capsule on March 12, 2024. (Photo courtesy of NASA) (Kyodo) 

Among other research projects, the 59-year-old Japanese astronaut worked on experiments to create high-quality protein crystals for the development of new drugs and engaged in a study to look into the effects of an extended stay in space on various organs.

The mission was Furukawa's second time on the ISS, following his 2011 flight there aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. No Japanese astronaut is expected to travel to the orbiting laboratory until around 2025, when Kimiya Yui, 54, and Takuya Onishi, 48, will stay there for six months each on separate missions.

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