The SpaceX Dragon Capsule carrying Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken came down in the Gulf of Mexico just south of Pensacola on Florida’s Gulf coast. They have now emerged from the capsule on to a recovery vessel.
The touchdown marks the first crewed US water landing since the final Apollo moon mission 45 years ago. Hurley’s and Behnken’s capsule touched the water at about 14:48 EDT (19:48 BST; 18:48 GMT).
Astronauts begin historic mission on private craft
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“It’s truly our honor and privilege,” said Hurley as they arrived. “On behalf of the SpaceX and Nasa teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX,” the SpaceX mission control said just after splashdown.
President Donald Trump – who attended the capsule’s launch two months ago – hailed its safe return. “Thank you to all!” he tweeted. “Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after very successful two month mission.” All its human transport needs just above the Earth will in future be purchased from private companies, such as SpaceX.
The government agency says contracting out to service providers in this way will save it billions of dollars that can be diverted to getting astronauts to the Moon and Mars. The Dragon capsule launched to the space station at the end of May on a Falcon 9 rocket, also supplied by SpaceX.
Hurley’s and Behnken’s mission served as an end-to-end demonstration of the astronaut “taxi service” the company, owned by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, will be selling to Nasa from now on.
The Boeing corporation is also developing a crew capsule solution but has had to delay its introduction after encountering software problems on its Starling capsule.