Crew Dragon Safely Returns Astronauts to Earth, Despite Minor Hiccup

Soon after two:forty eight P.M. ET on Sunday, August two, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico after spending the previous two months aboard the International Place Station (ISS). The event was not only the initial water landing given that 1975, it also marked the initial time any astronauts have safely splashed down in a crew capsule constructed by a private spaceflight enterprise — particularly, SpaceX. 

“It’s a testomony to what we can complete when we perform alongside one another to do something once thought extremely hard,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine claimed in a NASA push launch. “Partners are key to how we go farther than at any time right before and just take the following ways on daring missions to the moon and Mars.”

What Is it Like to Come Back again to Earth?

The Crew Dragon remaining the International Place Station (ISS) at around seven:30 P.M. ET on Saturday, August two. Following locking the hatches and departing the ISS, the capsule carried out a sequence of motor burns all through the night time to be certain it was on the ideal route dwelling. For the duration of that time, Behnken and Hurley also acquired their needed eight several hours of snooze right before receiving wake-up calls from their youngsters right before reentry.

In some approaches, the return excursion can be even extra dangerous than the first liftoff. 

Originally zipping around Earth at some 17,000 miles (27,350 kilometers) for each hour, Crew Dragon initial pierced via Earth’s higher ambiance. As friction slowed the craft, the temperature outside the capsule swelled to about 3,five hundred degrees Fahrenheit (one,900 Celsius). But inside, thanks to warmth shields on the exterior of the spacecraft, the temperature remained below eighty five F (29.5 C) — heat, but all points thought of, really relaxed. 

Although the warmth shields shielded the blistering spacecraft, a bubble of ionized fuel encompassing Crew Dragon induced an anticipated and momentary six-minute communications blackout. For the duration of this time, Behnken and Hurley seasoned forces up to five times the power of Earth’s gravity. These forces have been much extra intensive than those astronauts seasoned for the duration of Place Shuttle missions, but they also didn’t final as very long. 

When the spacecraft reached about 400 mph (645 km/h), Crew Dragon deployed two drogue parachutes to further gradual and stabilize the craft right before location loose its four major parachutes. These lessened the pace of the capsule to around 16 mph (26 km/h). About two minutes afterwards, Behnken and Hurley successfully splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico.


Regardless of worry for substantial winds and waves to disrupt Crew Dragon’s return, the temperature was near perfect for the duration of the splashdown landing. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)


Recovery “fast boats” swept in quickly after splashdown, and quite a few lookie-loos in satisfaction boats converged around the web site shortly after. Although some of the recovery crew ensured there have been no toxic fumes lingering around the spacecraft, others labored to drag the parachutes out of the ocean. 

Next, the recovery ship Go Navigator closed in on the capsule. A large rig on the ship plucked Crew Dragon from the water, carefully inserting it onboard in a dock nicknamed the “Dragon’s nest.”


SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft is pulled from the Gulf of Mexico by SpaceX’s GO Navigator recovery ship. It was then nestled into the “Dragon nest”. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Behnken and Hurley continue to had really a very long wait around remaining, even so. Their exit from the capsule was delayed thanks to the detection of lower stages of likely toxic propellant they would have had to move via on departure. In an abundance of caution, recovery crews vented the fumes, and quickly adequate, Behnken and Hurley have been served out of the capsule. Adhering to typical procedure, the astronauts have been taken out of Crew Dragon on stretchers, but they equally gave cameras the thumbs up as they have been handed off to NASA’s professional medical group. Following a brief test-up, Behnken and Hurley have been taken to meet up with with their families. 

Overall, Dragon was a thriving flight. But more than the following few weeks, scientists and engineers will test and double-test the mission and reentry info, hunting for any likely concerns that continue to want dealt with. NASA states the start day for the initial common, fully operational Crew Dragon flight — alternatively than a demo mission — will be no previously than late-September of this calendar year.

You can watch the whole event below, courtesy of SpaceX. (Skip to six:24:08 to watch the parachute deployment, splashdown, and recovery.