Two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, splashed down safely in the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at 2:48 p.m. EDT. It is the first time a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft has returned from the International Space Station to complete a test flight, beginning a new era in human spaceflight.
NASA is continuing live coverage of the recovery.
Teams on the Go Navigator recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing Crew Dragon and ensuring the spacecraft is safed for the recovery effort. As the fast boat teams complete their work, the recovery ship will move into position to hoist Crew Dragon onto the main deck of Go Navigator with Behnken and Hurley inside. Once on the main deck, the crew will be taken out of the spacecraft and receive medical checks before a helicopter ride to Pensacola to board a plane for Houston.
The duo arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 62 days aboard station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.
These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data about the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.
The test flight also will help NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission that will occur following NASA certification, which is expected to take about six weeks.
The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.