NASA Astronauts Carried Safely Home On SpaceX Rocket

Marco Green
August 4, 2020

He rang the a "ship's bell" on the station as they departed.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft set off from the ISS Saturday evening.

Pilot Doug Hurley, one of the two astronauts on board, said: "It's truly our honor and privilege" as radio communications became choppy and cut out. "Congrats everybody at SpaceX".

The newly named Dragon Endeavor spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. ET Saturday after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. Behnken and Hurley were able to sleep aboard the capsule before being awoken Sunday morning with an audio message from their young sons.

Each Dragon capsule can be flown as many as five times and according to Reed, it should only take about two months to get Hurley and Behnken's capsule ready to fly again.

Behnken and Hurley brought the flag back to Earth, stowed as cargo in Crew Dragon.

By 2:43 p.m. Eastern time, live footage from a high-altitude NASA research plane showed a tiny white dot rushing into the frame as the spacecraft sped toward its landing site at about 400 miles per hour.

The crew said shortly after landing that they were feeling good.

Detection of the fumes in fact caused a short delay in opening the hatch to release the astronauts from the capsule.

The crew were expected to spend up to an hour floating inside the capsule before joint recovery teams from SpaceX and NASA retrieve them for a helicopter trip ashore.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Hurley and Behnken launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30.

The big picture: Behnken and Hurley's 2-month mission marked the first time people have launched to orbit from the US since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

"Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX", said Mission Control from SpaceX headquarters. The first of those missions could happen as soon as September. For NASA, it was the first time since its shuttle program retired in 2011, as since then NASA has relied on Russia's space program to launch its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Under those contracts, SpaceX and Boeing design and own the craft and NASA is simply a customer.

"This is really just the beginning: we are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low Earth orbit, on to the Moon, and then ultimately on to Mars", added Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX.

The astronauts' safe return gives the National Aeronautics and Space Administration a proven commercial vehicle to transport personnel to and from the space station.

After collecting the capsule, SpaceX staff encountered residual fuel vapors on the Dragon, which delayed progress on helping Behnken and Hurley to exit.

Another aerospace company Boeing is also developing spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station, as part of Nasa's Commercial Crew Program. "On behalf of a grateful Nation, thank you!"

About half an hour after the splashdown, Endeavour was hoisted aboard a ship called the Go Navigator with a crane.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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