In the first splashdown of an American crew spacecraft in 45 years, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 p.m. EDT on August 2, 2020 for the first time in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft, returning from the International Space Station to complete a test flight that marks a new era in human spaceflight.
Mind you! Behnken and Hurley’s return was the first splashdown for American astronauts since Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald “Deke” Slayton landed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii on July 24, 1975, at the end of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
According to NASA, The spacecraft was recovered by SpaceX and brought aboard the recovery ship ‘Go Navigator’ after returning from the International Space Station on completing a test flight that marks a new era in human spaceflight. After returning to shore, the astronauts immediately will fly back to Houston.
“Welcome home, Bob and Doug! Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for the incredible work to make this test flight possible. It’s a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together to do something once thought impossible. Partners are key to how we go farther than ever before and take the next steps on daring missions to the Moon and Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight was launched May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After reaching orbit, Behnken and Hurley named their Crew Dragon spacecraft “Endeavour” as a tribute to the first space shuttle each astronaut had flown aboard.
“Congratulations to the entire SpaceX and NASA team on such an extraordinary mission. We could not be more proud to see Bob and Doug safely back home—we all appreciate their dedication to this mission and helping us start the journey towards carrying people regularly to low Earth orbit and on to the Moon and Mars. And I really hope they enjoyed the ride,” said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell.
Behnken and Hurley participated in a number of scientific experiments, spacewalks and public engagement events during their 62 days aboard station. Overall, the astronaut duo spent 64 days in orbit, completed 1,024 orbits around Earth and traveled 27,147,284 statute miles. The astronauts contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations.
The Demo-2 test flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has worked with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil to the space station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations.
The completion of Demo-2 and the review of the mission and spacecraft pave the way for NASA to certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, called Crew-1, later this year. This mission would occur after NASA certification, which is expected to take about six weeks.
Mind you! The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping NASA prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
(Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
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