SpaceX capsule with NASA astronauts lands in the Gulf of Mexico

A SpaceX capsule carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken has splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a more than two-month mission to the International Space Station, drawing to a close the first mission of the privately owned craft.

first crewed test mission ever.” data-reactid=”14″ type=”text”>The Crew Dragon capsule splashed down at 2:48 p.m. Eastern time near Pensacola, Fla. The spacecraft’s successful landing caps off its first crewed test mission ever.

“It was truly our honor and privilege,” Hurley said over the capsule’s communications system shortly after splashdown. “Congrats everybody at SpaceX.”

left the space station Saturday afternoon. Behnken and Hurley were able to sleep aboard the capsule before being awoken Sunday morning with an audio message from their young sons.” data-reactid=”20″ type=”text”>The spacecraft, dubbed Dragon Endeavor, left the space station Saturday afternoon. Behnken and Hurley were able to sleep aboard the capsule before being awoken Sunday morning with an audio message from their young sons.

The capsule maneuvered closer to Earth and then began its de-orbit burn a little before 2 p.m. Eastern time. Crew Dragon then hurtled through the atmosphere, reaching temperatures of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool air was pumped through the capsule and into the astronauts’ suits to keep them comfortable.

By 2:43 p.m. Eastern time, live footage from a high-altitude NASA research plane showed a tiny white dot rushing into the frame as the spacecraft sped toward its landing site at about 400 mph.

A minute later, drogue parachutes deployed, slowing the craft down to about 150 mph. Then four main parachutes shot out from the capsule and ballooned up into the air, slowing its downward drift to about 15 mph before splashing down.

The crew said shortly after landing that they were feeling good.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Program mission.” data-reactid=”25″ type=”text”>It was the first time in 45 years that astronauts have returned to Earth via an ocean landing. The last such landing came in July 1975 when an Apollo capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program mission.

Since then, spacecraft have made landings on terra firma — the space shuttle landed on a runway and the Russian Soyuz capsule lands in Kazakhstan.

After recovery of the crew and capsule, NASA and SpaceX teams willcomb through the data from the capsule and the flight, and prepare to certify the Crew Dragon craft for future, regular missions to the space station. The first of those missions could happen as soon as September.

awarded multibillion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing Co. to develop craft to transport U.S. astronauts to the space station.” data-reactid=”28″ type=”text”>In 2014, NASA awarded multibillion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing Co. to develop craft to transport U.S. astronauts to the space station.

Under those contracts, SpaceX and Boeing design and own the craft and NASA is simply a customer. NASA has said the arrangement lets the agency focus its attention on more ambitious missions to the moon or Mars, while commercial companies take over more routine spaceflight operations in low-Earth orbit, such as carrying cargo or crew members to the space station.

failed to make it to the space station due to several problems and had to return to Earth days ahead of schedule. Boeing will fly another uncrewed test mission to the space station before launching crew.” data-reactid=”30″ type=”text”>Boeing’s Starliner capsule made its first uncrewed test flight in December, but the spacecraft failed to make it to the space station due to several problems and had to return to Earth days ahead of schedule. Boeing will fly another uncrewed test mission to the space station before launching crew.

Behnken and Hurley brought back to Earth about 330 pounds of cargo, most of which is science and sampling hardware. But there was also a special item — an American flag left on the space station by the last space shuttle crew for the next crew launching from the U.S. to retrieve.