SpaceX Successfully Returns NASA Astronauts to Earth
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After a 63-day stay at the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have returned to Earth aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule. The pair successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday afternoon.
Hurley and Behnken in June joined Expedition 63 crew members Chris Cassidy, Antoly Ivanishin, and Ivan Vagner for a two-month stint on the ISS; their journey home began Saturday, when the Crew Dragon autonomously undocked and departed the orbiting laboratory.
"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed," SpaceX tweeted on Sunday afternoon, welcoming the astronauts back to Earth, where recovery boat GO Navigator was waiting to retrieve them. Watch the nearly eight-hour webcast of Crew Dragon's return flight below.
From launch to landing, this second demonstration (Demo-2) marks Crew Dragon's first successful passenger flight to orbit. "To anybody who has touched Endeavour, you should take a moment to cherish this day," Hurley said upon exiting the spacecraft. He and Behnken named the capsule after the "incredible endeavour" NASA, SpaceX, and the United States have been on since the end of the spaceflight program. It also alludes to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, on which Behnken and Hurley took their first flights.
In an unexpected twist, private boats sailing near the landing site were asked to leave, the BBC reported, citing hazardous chemicals venting from the Dragon's propulsion system. "What is not common is having passersby approach the vehicle close range with nitrogen tetroxide in the atmosphere," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said of the rubberneckers. "We need to make sure that we're warning people not to get close to the spacecraft in the future."
Assuming all post-mission assessments go smoothly, SpaceX and NASA will move forward with the first operational Crew Dragon expedition (Crew-1), set to liftoff with astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi in late September.