Florida: Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken had a safe splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico after their two-months stay at the International Space Station. The launch and landing were marvelously successful using Elon Musk’s SpaceX manufactured Crew Dragon and Endeavour capsule. Records say that this was the first splashdown by US astronauts in 45 years, in the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit.
The safe arrival and landing appear to be a golden milestone for SpaceX, as it has a green signal for subsequent space commutations. SpaceX expects to launch another crew by the next month and a tourist flight by the next year.
The astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode the Dragon capsule back to Earth less than a day after departing the International Space Station and two months after blasting off from Florida. Watch the full video starting from their undocking from ISS upto the downsplash in the water:
Earlier there was a confusion regarding the crew’s return on grounds of the tropical storm Isaias around Florida. But then decisions came as scheduling the landing quite far from the storm hit. Mr Musk monitored the landing and splashdown from SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California.
The capsule parachuted into the calm gulf waters about 65 kilometres off the coast of Pensacola. “Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” Mission Control said from the company’s headquarters.
Mr Hurley replied: “It was truly our honour and privilege.”
The astronauts’ ride home in the capsule named Endeavour was fast, bumpy and hot, at least on the outside. The spacecraft went from an orbital speed of 28,000kph to 560kph during atmospheric re-entry. It slowed to 24kph before splashdown.
Peak heating during the descent was 1,900°C. The anticipated top G forces felt by the crew were four to five times the force of Earth’s gravity. “Endeavour has you loud and clear,” Mr Hurley radioed following a brief communications blackout caused by the heat of re-entry.
A SpaceX recovery ship with more than 40 staff, including doctors and nurses, moved in quickly after splashdown and lifted the 4.5-metre capsule on to its deck. The recovery crew were quarantined well before the astronauts’ return to avoid Covid infection to them.
The astronauts will be subjected to some normal medical check-ups and thereafter, they would be carried to reunite with their family.
Now, a major portion of the mission’s success goes to Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. The Crew Dragon capsule, manufactured by SpaceX was launched on May 30th from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It was the first time a private company launched people into orbit and the first launch of Nasa astronauts from home turf in almost a decade. Mr Hurley served as pilot of Nasa’s last space shuttle flight in 2011 and the commander of this SpaceX flight.
SpaceX needs six weeks to inspect the capsule before launching the next crew about the end of September. The next mission of four astronauts will spend six months aboard the space station. Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken’s capsule will be refurbished for another flight next spring.
Meanwhile, a Houston company run by a former NASA official has formed a partnership with SpaceX to send three customers to the space station in the autumn of 2021. Read this to know about the return initiations of the astronauts from ISS. Know more about SpaceX Starlink programme.