NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely landed off the coast of Pensacola, Florida in calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m., Eastern time, August 2nd 2020.
The astronauts spent two months aboard the International Space Station, successfully completing NASA’s first human flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule ‘Endeavour’. The landing site in the Gulf of Mexico was chosen to avoid Tropical Strom ‘Isaiah’ in the Atlantic.
NASA and SpaceX
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Administrator, James Frederick Bridenstine stated SpaceX is now distinguished as being the first private space company to launch humans into orbit from American soil since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, marking a new era for human space flight for the United States.
President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell said this really is just the beginning, calling the space flight an extraordinary mission, initiating future advanced human flight missions to the moon, beyond deep space and ultimately onto mars.
SpaceX Dragon ‘Endeavor’ spacecraft landing
SpaceX and NASA had monitored ‘Isaiah’, watching closely for days as it developed from a tropical storm to a hurricane. In response to unfavourable weather in the Atlantic, NASA mission team designated seven safe landing sites, four in the Gulf of Mexico, three in the Atlantic, in tandem with SpaceX recovery sea craft positioned for an eventual safe landing. Dragon crew capsule floated down to calm waters with the help of four parachutes at an approximate speed of 15 miles/hour, the first sea landing of NASA astronauts since the US-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were welcomed home via radio on behalf of SpaceX and NASA mission teams upon safe arrival. They responded congratulating the mission team, extending appreciation saying “It’s truly our honor and privilege”.
Indeed, this mission is the final milestone, a result of several years of testing and development, unquestionably a victory for NASA and SpaceX for a program initiated by former President Barack Obama to encourage private companies to launch human to space. The mission served as a silver lining in a year of crisis and social disturbance from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX talked about the responsibility of receiving the astronauts safely to their homes and families.
Spacecraft Dragon undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m., Eastern Time on Saturday, 1st August, orbiting at 17,500 miles/hour, at Mach 22 (more than 22 times the speed of sound). Powerful engines fired for the last time before approach and descent home, generating massive temperatures of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit caused by atmospheric resistance against the craft exterior, metamorphizing hues from achromatic to burnt sienna – bordeaux.
Go Navigator Rescue Crew
Rescue and recovery crews stabilized the capsule minutes after landing, checking for propellant percolations, and hauling the spacecraft aboard Go Navigator recovery sea craft. Astronauts Behnken and Hurley were received by medical personnel. NASA and SpaceX stated Go Navigator rescue crew were wearing masks and took extra care because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thank you for bringing us home safely,” said Behnken and Doug giving a thumbs-up sign.
Bob Behnken’s wife, astronaut Megan McArthur is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station in 2021, on the same SpaceX spacecraft that was used on this mission. NASA and SpaceX will conduct extensive and comprehensive evaluations to clear the spacecraft for the next flight, in particular, safety and performance parameters of the spacecraft will be inspected. SpaceX has planned the next human spaceflight mission within six weeks.