SpaceX Brings NASA Astronauts Home in Milestone Test Flight
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NASA completed a triumphant return to U.S. space travel as SpaceX’s Dragon capsule plopped into the Gulf of Mexico with two astronauts, successfully concluding the company’s first crewed test flight to the International Space Station.
The spacecraft splashed down at about 2:48 p.m. Eastern time Sunday near Pensacola, Florida. A SpaceX vessel hoisted the vehicle carrying Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley onto its deck less than an hour after their arrival. The hatch opened at 3:59 p.m. and the astronauts emerged a short time later.
“Welcome home,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.
The return of Behnken and Hurley capped the first mission in which U.S. astronauts flew to the station on an American spacecraft since NASA’s shuttle program ended in 2011. The highly anticipated flight also provided an inspiration for a nation grappling with a pandemic, civil unrest and a tattered economy. The astronauts launched for the space station on May 30 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket made by Elon Musk’sSpace Exploration Technologies Corp.
After collecting the capsule, SpaceX staff encountered residual vapor fumes vapors on the Dragon, which delayed their progress on helping Behnken and Hurley to exit. The company targets having the crew out of the Dragon within an hour of splashdown.
Behnken and Hurley initiated a burn at 1:56 p.m. Sunday to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, with the capsule undergoing temperatures of as much as 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,927 degrees Celsius) as it approached the planet. The Dragon splashed down less than an hour later.
Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after very successful two month mission. Thank you to all!8:54 PM · Aug 2, 2020
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