On Sunday afternoon, SpaceX successfully returned NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely back to Earth, ending a two-month test that was a historic moment for spaceX and NASA.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft landed in Mexico near Pensacola, Florida. Shortly after, the two astronauts were spotted by SpaceX’s ship, and NASA broadcast the process live, in which Both Benken and Hurley were recovered from the camera and thumbs up.
The mission, codenamed Demo-2, is The first attempt by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to send astronauts into space, making it the first private company in the world to put humans into orbit, something only big governments can do. For NASA, that means the U.S. has restored the ability to send astronauts into space, which the U.S. has lacked since about a decade ago when it ended its Space Shuttle program. In the future, NASA plans to use SpaceX spacecraft to send astronauts into space every few months at a cost of about $55 million per seat.
“This SpaceX mission has established a business model for the future,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Sunday. Human spaceflight has entered a new era, and NASA will be its customer. “
SpaceX has been developing the Dragon spacecraft for years, and the Demo-2 mission is the project’s final exam. NASA has paid SpaceX $3.1 billion for spacecraft development and six previous launches. In addition to SpaceX, Boeing has received $4.8 billion from NASA to develop an aircraft called Starliner, which failed in December and is still under development.
U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated SpaceX on Twitter shortly after its Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed off.
NASA expects to evaluate Demo-2 data over the next six weeks, but will make its first official mission by the end of September.
The craft endured temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1926 degrees Celsius) as it passed through the Earth’s atmosphere. But because the spacecraft uses a dense insulation shield, the temperature inside the dragon’s interior is below 85 degrees Fahrenheit (about 29 degrees Celsius).
Under the action of the parachute, the aircraft slowly splashed on the sea. Notably, the Demo-2 is the first sea splash of a NASA astronaut in nearly 45 years, and the first time a manned spacecraft has been sputtered over the Gulf of Mexico. It took only about an hour and a half to get out of the capsule with the two astronauts.
Shortly after the splash, a group of boats sailed into the capsule and secured it for recycling. One ship recovered its parachute on the surface of the water, and the other was responsible for checking the outside of the Dragon spacecraft for the risk of leakage. SpaceX’s recycling vessel, the GO Navigator, then used a crane to lift the craft out of the water and place it on the deck. GO Navigator has a support team of about 40 people, made up of SpaceX and NASA personnel, each with its own role and mission during the recycling process.
During the recycling process, both astronauts remained in the capsule and the hatches were not opened. After they got out of the vehicle, a helicopter took off from the deck and sent the two men back to land.
On May 30, Benken and Hurley were aboard the Dragon spacecraft, launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket into orbit, and the next day the two arrived at the International Space Station. The two spent 63 days on the space station, where they tested the systems and functions of the SpaceX spacecraft.
When docking with the space station, the Dragon spacecraft also conducted habitability tests to ensure that astronauts can perform the necessary tasks while inside the spacecraft.
If data analysis of Demo-2 does not reveal any serious problems, NASA plans to launch the Crew-1 mission in September. This will be the spaceX Dragon’s first mission, with four astronauts to be sent into space: NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and the other. JaxA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will be SpaceX’s first four-person mission. (Wing)