On May 30th, NASA launched the first-ever commercially-built space shuttle into orbit. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley took flight aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon. This Sunday, both men returned to earth safely, bringing the historic mission to the International Space Station to an end.
To Space and Back
The capsule, carrying the two astronauts, splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida. Several recovery boats were waiting nearby to receive the crew. By touching down to earth, Behnken and Hurley successfully completed the first-ever passenger flight on the Crew Dragon space shuttle.
Dubbed Demon-2, the mission was created to prove all of the Crew Dragon’s most integral capabilities. Among its successful maneuvers, the Crew Dragon transported a crew safely to the International Space Station, and securely returned them to earth.
The mission wasn’t quite over on the splash down. The SpaceX recovery boats had to hoist the massive Crew Dragon out of the water. Once they did, Behnken and Hurley were able to exit the capsule and inhale some fresh air once again. In true commercial airline fashion, the flight chief thanked the crew for “flying Space X.”
The capsule’s touchdown into the Gulf of Mexico was the riskiest part of the landing, and it went off without a hitch.
The successful return now clears a path for future Crew Dragon missions to the stars. SpaceX, the interstellar startup founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, created the Crew Dragon at NASA’s behest. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had tasked private companies with creating commercial vehicles for shipping astronauts to space. Boeing had also participated in the initiative, but with the successful completion of the Crew Dragon mission, makes it appear as though SpaceX has won the race. Sunday’s landing proves that the Crew Dragon is ready for regular use.
And SpaceX is wasting no time. It is already prepping for two more Crew Dragon missions, one for September of this year, and another for Spring 2021.