NASA Astronauts Make Ocean Landing

James Marshall
August 3, 2020

Suspended under four giant billowing orange-and-white parachutes, the Crew Dragon settled into calm waters near Pensacola, a gentle pace of 15 miles per hour.

The mission made history as it was the first time a private company, Elon Musk's SpaceX, successfully sent humans into orbit. "We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low-earth orbit". There the duo will undergo medical checks ahead of a flight to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

And it did, in NASA's first water landing since 1975.

A visibly emotional Musk later remarked, "this is the result of an incredible, incredible amount of work from people at SpaceX, people at NASA", Musk said. Along with inspection of Endeavour and crew debriefings, this data will be used to evaluate the Crew Dragon over the next six weeks before granting it certification to begin official commercial operations with the Crew-1 mission later this year.

NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 test flight launched May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX already had experience hauling cargo to the space station, bringing those capsules back to a Pacific splashdown. But SpaceX beat Boeing to the launch pad.

"It´s truly our honor and privilege", said pilot Doug Hurley, who was joined on the mission by commander Bob Behnken.

After spending a night in the space on Saturday en route Earth, the astronauts were woken up to messages from their sons.

Their return trip was made more dramatic by a two-day standoff with mother nature: Tropical Storm Isaias was barreling toward the east coast.

In this frame grab from NASA TV, the SpaceX Dragon capsule splashes down August 2, 2020, in the Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said the boats ventured "a little bit too close to the Dragon capsule". He added that NASA "could have done better" and will likely need to deploy additional traffic control on future missions.

"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed", SpaceX tweeted on Sunday afternoon, welcoming the astronauts back to Earth, where recovery boat GO Navigator was waiting to retrieve them.

The hatch opening was briefly delayed as a team worked to stop a leak of rocket fuel vapor, but around an hour after splashdown, the astronauts exited the capsule and headed for shore on a helicopter.

The US Coast Guard released a statement about the many boaters that had encroached on the capsule after splashdown, saying the area of the splashdown was out of its legal jurisdiction.

Despite the oddities, NASA and SpaceX celebrated the historic Bhenken and Hurley's safe return.

"Congratulations SpaceX & NASA on completing first crewed Dragon flight!", Musk wrote on Twitter after the splash-down, adding a United States flag emoji followed by "returned" - referring to a rivalry with Boeing over which company's astronaut crew would be the first to retrieve an American flag left on the space station in 2011, when the last crewed mission launched from U.S. soil.

The United States has had to rely on Russian Federation for rides to space since the last Space Shuttle flew in 2011.

Behnken and Hurley participated in a number of scientific experiments, spacewalks and public engagement events during their 62 days aboard station. The spaceship needed to make it back to Earth without a hitch. "We are entering a new era of human spaceflight".

One fun thing: Behnken's wife and fellow astronaut Megan McArthur is also expected to launch to the orbiting laboratory aboard the second operational flight of the Crew Dragon.

NASA's decision not to create its own replacement for the Shuttle - but to contract that task out to commercial companies - was hugely controversial in the early 2010s.

Following the successful launch of Crew Dragon in late May, NASA announced that SpaceX would be able to reuse both its Falcon 9 first stage boosters as well as the Dragon capsules on future astronauts' missions, and not require new hardware each time.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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