After hours of suspense, the Dragon spacecraft touched down at 8:45 am (1345 GMT) some 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of the USA state of Florida.
But right on schedule, two drogue chutes popped out to slow and stabilize the ship, followed a few minutes later by four main parachutes. The crowd went wild once the capsule splashed down and was seen floating upright.
Crew Dragon also took a cargo of around 400 pounds into orbit.
The burn itself kicked off on time, at 12:53 UTC, shaving a critical few hundred miles an hour off the Crew Dragon's speed ahead of a splashdown, almost 50 years to the day since Apollo 9 returned to Earth. The last time was on March 13, 1969, when America's Apollo 9 landed in the ocean after orbiting Earth in preparation for moon landings.
NASA has been forced to rely on Russian Soyuz capsules to get personnel to and from the ISS ever since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011.
Once the Dragon reached a safe distance, NASA's Mission Control in Houston radioed its congratulations to SpaceX's team, the station's crew and partners around the world.
SpaceX has been delivering goods to the ISS for several years now with its cargo version of the spacecraft. NASA and SpaceX have not been forthcoming about what those problems were, and continue to refer to them vaguely as "anomalies", even in an October safety advisory panel report submitted to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Long-range cameras have also been loaded onto the recovery ship. During Saturday's post-launch briefing, reporters asked Musk what he was most anxious about. "We really appreciate the opportunity from NASA to really do this and have a chance to fly up to the station". The capsule had brown scorch marks from top to bottom, but otherwise looked fine. Now it's clear that SpaceX is comfortably in the lead, and NASA expects manned missions using Crew Dragon to commence sooner rather than later.
This docking maneuver-a critical part of the test flight-is something the capsule will have to do routinely in the future. The Starliner is created to touch down on land.
The crewless mission, called Demo-1, was SpaceX's chance to show it can build a spaceship that can carry people.
SpaceX acknowledges some capsule systems need more work before Behnken and Hurley climb aboard for liftoff, as early as July. It's possible this name referred to something NASA or SpaceX related that I'm not aware of - but the most likely situation is that SpaceX officials are big fans of the ALIEN series of films and media. If deemed a complete success, the mission would give NASA increased confidence in one of its prime contractors and propel the space agency a step closer to restoring human spaceflight from USA soil. It will carry the craft back to land by Sunday.