- NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley weathered a speedy, scorching-hot fall through Earth’s atmosphere in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship on Sunday. They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET.
- In May, SpaceX made history by launching them into space aboard Crew Dragon.
- The ship and its crew successfully undocked from the International Space Station on Saturday night.
- You can watch the end of their journey live below on NASA TV and YouTube.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
After travelling more than 27 million miles around planet Earth, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have successfully returned home in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship.
The two-man crew splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 p.m. ET on Sunday, finishing the first commercial astronaut mission ever, called Demo-2.
The men survived a fiery plunge through Earth’s atmosphere, which Musk had previously said was the part of the journey that concerned him the most.
But the Crew Dragon capsule weathered the fall and its parachutes deployed perfectly, slowing it down just minutes before it landed safely in the ocean. Recovery teams in speedboats and helicopters rushed to the spaceship to pick up Behnken and Hurley.
Despite Hurricane Isaias strafing Florida’s Atlantic coast with brutal weather, NASA mission controllers reported the weather was calm and the seas were smooth at splashdown sites off the Gulf coast.
“It looks like glass. It’s awesome,” one mission controller said on NASA’s live feed ahead of the landing.
The two astronauts and SpaceX made history in May when the company became the first ever to launch a spaceship carrying people to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. In doing so, Elon Musk’s rocket company revived the United States’ ability to launch its own astronauts into space, which hadn’t been possible since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
Two months later, Behnken and Hurley have completed the historic mission in the same spaceship, which they have named Endeavour.
What Crew Dragon’s return was like
The astronauts successfully undocked from the ISS at 7:35 p.m. ET, kicking off the first major stage of their return voyage. They then performed a few propellant burns, putting them on course for the landing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Behnken and Hurley were awoken Sunday morning by their children in a pre-recorded message.
“I’m happy you went into space but I’m even happier that you’re coming back home,” said Hurley’s 10-year-old son, Jack. “Hey, wake up! Don’t worry, you can sleep in tomorrow – hurry home so we can go get my dog. We love you, dad,” said Behnken’s 6-year-old son, Theodore.
On Sunday afternoon, Endeavour shed its heavy, cylindrical trunk, which would otherwise interfere with landing (and should burn up in the atmosphere). After the separation was complete, Crew Dragon hurtled toward Earth at up to 17,500 miles per hour, or nearly 25 times the speed of sound.
During this fall, the spaceship’s heat shield protected the hardware and crew from temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Musk has called this part of the journey his “biggest concern.”
After the Crew Dragon reentered the thicker parts of Earth’s atmosphere, it deployed two sets of parachutes. The first opened at about 18,000 feet, then another set came around 6,500 feet. After that came the splashdown.
NASA’s continuous coverage will conclude Sunday with a news conference around 4:30 p.m. ET.
Below is NASA’s full timeline of the return:
1:48:50 p.m. ET – Manoeuvre to separate trunk 1:51:09 p.m. ET – Spaceship claw separation from trunk 1:51:54 p.m. ET – Trunk separation 1:52:15 p.m. ET – Burn to fly away from the trunk 1:56:45 p.m. ET – Deorbit burn 2:08:09 p.m. ET – Deorbit burn complete 2:08:10 p.m. ET – Reposition for entry communications 2:11:27 p.m. ET – Spaceship’s nosecone closed 2:32:00 p.m. ET – Manoeuvre to finalise the angle of reentry 2:36:10 p.m. ET – Anticipated communications blackout 2:36:33 p.m. ET – Entry through Earth’s atmosphere 2:36:40 p.m. ET – Spaceship auto-corrects entry position 2:42:17 p.m. ET – Anticipated return of communications 2:44:13 p.m. ET – Drogue parachutes deploy 2:44:20 p.m. ET – Drogue parachutes fully inflate 2:45:00 p.m. ET – Main parachutes deploy 2:48:24 p.m. ET – Splashdown near Pensacola, Fla.
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