Crew Dragon splashes down safely, returning NASA astronauts to Earth

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has splashed down safely off the Florida coast, completing the historic first crewed test flight of the craft and returning NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth.

The Crew Dragon splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico near to Pensacola, Florida, at 2:48 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 2, with the two crew members to be recovered by the Go Navigator recovery vessel. They will now be taken for medical assessments to check they are fit and well before taking a plane to Ellington Field base in Houston, Texas.

Crew Dragon spacecraft splashes down
The Crew Dragon spacecraft splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico on August 2, 2020. NASA TV

This marks the successful completion of Demo-2, the test flight mission and final step in getting Dragon ready for regular use by NASA. The agency intends to use the Dragon spacecraft, which is designed, built, and operated by SpaceX, to ferry astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS).

The test flight began with the launch of the Crew Dragon on May 30, 2020, from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This marked the first time that American astronauts had been launched from American soil since the closing of the space shuttle program in 2011. Aboard the Crew Dragon, Behnken and Hurley spent a 19-hour journey during which they offered viewers a tour of the craft and introduced them to the third member of their crew, a stuffed dinosaur named Tremor who was chosen to go on the adventure by their two young sons.

The launch, flight, and arrival at the ISS all went off without a hitch, and the capsule docked with the station allowing Behnken and Hurley to enter and meet their crewmates, ISS Expedition 63, headed up by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. During their two months onboard the ISS, Behnken and Hurley contributed to science experiments as well as taking part in a series of spacewalks to upgrade the station’s power system.

With the Crew Dragon back on Earth, the test flight is complete and the operational flights can begin. NASA recently announced the crew members for the Crew-2 flight of Crew Dragon, including NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. The mission is planned for spring 2021.

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