SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Returns To Earth Safely

SpaceX capsule carrying two U.S. astronauts safely landed in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday after completing a historic mission.

It was the fist commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley returned from the International Space Station to complete a test flight that marks a new era in human spaceflight.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon splashed down under parachutes in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 p.m. EDT Sunday and was successfully recovered by SpaceX.

After returning to shore, the astronauts flew back to Houston, where they were welcomed by their families.

It was the first splashdown for American astronauts since the final outing of an Apollo-Soyuz Test Project 45 years ago.

The Demo-2 mission is the final major milestone for SpaceX’s human spaceflight system to be certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the International Space Station.

Once the Demo-2 mission is complete, and the SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification, NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will fly on Dragon’s first six-month operational mission (Crew-1) in late September, SpaceX said.

“Welcome home, Bob and Doug! Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for the incredible work to make this test flight possible,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight was launched on 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.

Crew Dragon docked to the forward port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module the next day.

Behnken and Hurley participated in a number of scientific experiments, spacewalks and public engagement events during their 62 days aboard station.

Behnken conducted four spacewalks while on board the space station with Expedition 63 Commander and NASA colleague Chris Cassidy. He now is tied for most spacewalks by an American astronaut with Michael Lopez-Alegria, Peggy Whitson, and Chris Cassidy.

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