Two astronauts returned to Earth Sunday from their historic mission to the International Space Station in a capsule built and launched by Hawthorne-based SpaceX, splashing down successfully in the Gulf of Mexico.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley parachuted into the Gulf at 11:48 a.m. PDT, hitting their target time exactly, and were retrieved in a NASA recovery boat off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
“Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed! Welcome back to Earth, @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug!” SpaceX tweeted at 11:49 a.m.
“Our recovery teams are making sure that there are no poisonous fumes around the capsule, both for the safety of @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug and the people recovering them from the water. #LaunchAmerica” NASA tweeted at 11:58 a.m.
A little more than an hour later, Behnken and Hurley wee safely removed from the capsule.
The astronauts were aboard the space station since May 31, the day after SpaceX’s historic launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the first manned launch from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.
Their trip in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft — named Endeavour — was technically a demonstration flight, showing off the capabilities of the ship as NASA advances private partnerships to revive U.S. space travel.
“Astronauts complete first splashdown in 45 years. Very exciting!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
The target location for the splashdown was changed from the Atlantic Ocean due to the approach of Hurricane Isaias toward Florida.
“We’re watching (forecasts) closely, mostly to maintain awareness and see the trends, and understand what the timeline would be if our recovery out of the water, for example, was delayed a little bit,” Behnken said Friday from the space station during a NASA news briefing. “But we have confidence that the teams on the ground are of course watching that much more closely than we are.
“We don’t control the weather, and we know we can stay up here longer — there’s more chow, and I know the space station program has more work that we can do for the (principal investigators) and other folks who have sent science up to the space station,” he said.
Behnken said he and Hurley spent the last day preparing for the trip, “working through the onboard training that will refamiliarize us with the splashdown activities, what our responsibilities will be, the things that we’ll monitor.”
SpaceX is already deep into planning for the next mission. The company will move ahead with Crew Dragon’s first “operational mission.”
That mission will launch four astronauts — Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi — to the space station, sometime in late September.