SpaceX Crew Dragon Returning Home, Undocking from ISS Begins

Marco Green
August 3, 2020

They're baaa-ackk. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned safely to Earth after a two-month stay on the space station.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken (L) and Douglas Hurley are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule spacecraft that landed in the Gulf of Mexico after completing the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station on August 2, 2020, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. After medical checkups, the astronauts were flown by helicopter to Pensacola and then to Houston.

"Welcome home, Bob and Doug!"

The US President Donald Trump, who was also present at the launch site, congratulated and thanked the NASA and SpaceX team through a tweet. "Partners are key to how we go farther than ever before and take the next steps on daring missions to the Moon and Mars".

Behnken and Hurley's homecoming was also the first crewed splashdown in an American capsule in 45 years. "Endeavour" is a spaceship built and operated by SpaceX with about $2.7 billion in government funding.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 2, successfully completing a test flight and crossing the finish line of the decade-long commercial crew program.

After spending 63 days experiencing weightlessness in the space station, Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley will now spend time readjusting to Earth's gravity.

NASA and SpaceX teams will now comb through the data from the capsule and the flight, and prepare to certify the Crew Dragon craft for future, regular missions to the space station. "And I really hope they enjoyed the ride!"

Although the space station orbits at around 260 miles above Earth, it took nearly a day for the capsule to splash down. Hurley emerged two minutes later and also was taken for a checkup. CEO images help record how our planet is changing over time, from human-caused changes - such as urban growth and reservoir construction - to natural dynamic events, including hurricanes, floods, and volcanic eruptions.

Space station commander Chris Cassidy rang the ship's bell as Dragon pulled away, 267 miles (430 kilometers) above Johannesburg, South Africa.

The ocean landing was the final step in the mission created to test SpaceX's human spaceflight system - including launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

It was the first water landing for a USA spacecraft since the Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975.

NASA officials said Crew Dragon, a pod with seven astronaut seats, was in a "very healthy" condition while docked at the space station, where astronauts conducted tests and monitored how the spacecraft performed in space. The recovery teams reached the SpaceX Dragon capsule and gathered the parachutes in the water.

"It's been a great two months, and we appreciate all you've done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight", Mr Hurley told the remaining U.S. station crew member Chris Cassidy, as the Crew Dragon autonomously eased away from its docking port to begin the 21-hour journey home. That vehicle flew an uncrewed test flight in December 2019 that was cut short by technical problems, including software issues and communications difficulties.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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