NASA astronauts successfully reach Earth aboard SpaceX capsule

Pablo Tucker
August 5, 2020

Tech entrepreneur and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk heartily welcomed NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken home on Sunday after their historic retro-style splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule.

The spacecraft splashed down at about 2:48 p.m.

The pair landed in the ocean near Pensacola in western Florida on Sunday evening, after a 19-hour journey.

"This was a demonstration mission". After Crew Dragon hit the water, however, "the boats just made a beeline for it", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

"We are entering a new era of human spaceflight where NASA is no longer the purchaser, owner and operator of all the hardware".

"This is really just the beginning", Shotwell said. "We are going to be a customer - one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace for human spaceflight to low Earth orbit".

Demo-2's May 30 launch was the first orbital crewed mission to depart from US soil since the final flight of NASA's space shuttle program, back in 2011. On 30 May, the two astronauts took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, having worked on the project for 5 years. The capsule was then hoisted aboard and Behnken and Hurley disembarked. Shotwell said SpaceX personnel will begin purging those vapors sooner on future Dragon arrivals, even though levels Sunday were within acceptable limits.

NASA and SpaceX also plan to impose a tighter exclusion area on future Dragon splashdowns after multiple private boats sailed close to the capsule after it landed. But neither the military or SpaceX had enough personnel to keep private craft away, and officials cautioned that toxic fumes are a hazard. The USCG said some of the boaters "ignored the Coast Guard crews' requests and chose to encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger". These are hard times, there's not that much good news.No matter where you are on planet Earth, this is a good thing. The Dragon splashed down less than an hour later.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said 10-natural miles were cleared in advance of the capsule's return.

Overall, Dragon was a successful flight.

The last time NASA astronauts returned from space to water was on July 24, 1975, in the Pacific, the scene of most splashdowns, to end a joint U.S.

For SpaceX, the flight is a signature achievement 18 years after Musk founded the company with the ultimate goal of populating other planets. "Thanks for flying SpaceX", SpaceX mission control respond to am.

All in all, the mission was a triumph for space travel. A second Dragon flight will launch in early 2021, with NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, Behnken's wife, serving as pilot.

"Recovery team is GO and the weather is looking good", NASA tweeted as over 40 staff, including doctors and nurses, were poised to retrieve the astronauts.

It was the first splashdown by US astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit.

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