SpaceX successfully returns Astronauts back to Earth for the first time
Yesterday afternoon at 2:49pm EDT, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with US Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Pensacola, FL.
After spending ~2 months on board the International Space Station, they undocked at 7:34pm EDT on Saturday and began a series of burns that would bring them safely away from the ISS before heading back into Earth’s Atmosphere. Yesterday at 1:56pm EDT, about 18 hours after leaving the ISS, Crew Dragon initiated its deorbit sequence, which consisted of rotating the spacecraft 90 degrees and separating the trunk, then pointing nose-first and using the thrusters at the top to perform the deorbit burn, committing them to coming home. After the deorbit burn was completed the nose cone was closed and latched, spacecraft was orientated in the heat shield down position, and the crew prepared for reentry. It took ~40 minutes from the deorbit burn all the way to splashdown and everything went smoothly with the drogue parachutes and main parachutes all deploying nominally, for a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just over a half hour after splashdown and waiving unauthorized boats in the area away from the recovery zones, Crew Dragon was lifted out of the water by Go Navigator with Bob an Doug on board. The hatch opening was delayed about 20 minutes as they purged some fuel vapors from the spacecraft, but at 3:59pm EDT, Crew Dragon’s hatch was opened. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were lifted out of the vehicle and into the medical tent to assess how they’re feeling after their return from Zero-G.
A lot of data has to be reviewed from Dragon to see how it performed after its 2-month stay in space, but the safe return of the crew and spacecraft marks the end of the DM-2 mission as they prepare to launch Crew-1, the first operational crew mission on a new Crew Dragon spacecraft.