Nepal | September 22, 2020

NASA astronauts make historic return home aboard SpaceX capsule

Reuters
Share Now:

US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon, splashed down in the capsule in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a two-month voyage that was NASA’s first crewed mission from home soil in nine years.

Behnken and Hurley, tallying 64 days in space, undocked from the station on Saturday and returned home to land in calm waters off Florida’s Pensacola coast on schedule at 2:48 p.m. ET following a 21-hour overnight journey aboard Crew Dragon “Endeavor.”

The successful splashdown, the first of its kind by NASA in 45 years, was a final key test of whether SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk’s spacecraft can transport astronauts to and from orbit — a feat no private company has accomplished before.

“This was a great day for NASA and a great day for the United States of America,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters during a news conference. “Today we really made history.”

Despite Coast Guard restrictions and safety risks, spectators in private boats surrounded the splashdown site dozens of miles from shore as SpaceX and NASA recovery teams used a crane to hoist the spacecraft out of the water and onto a boat.

The crew’s retrieval from the capsule was delayed slightly as the teams worked to flush its fuel tanks after sensing traces of nitrogen tetroxide fumes, a toxic gas from one the spacecraft’s flammable fuels.

While the trace amount of fumes were common with astronaut capsules, Bridenstine said, “what is not common is having passers-by approach the vehicle at close range with nitrogen tetroxide in the atmosphere. That is not something that is good.”

Hurley, giving a thumbs up as he was wheeled out of the spacecraft on a stretcher, a normal procedure as astronauts adjust to Earth’s gravity, said, “I’m just proud to be a small part of this whole effort to get a company and people to and from the space station.”

“Thanks for doing the most difficult parts and the most important parts of human spaceflight – getting us into orbit and bringing us home,” Behnken told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, as the hatch door was opened.

For the return sequence, on-board thrusters and two sets of parachutes worked autonomously to slow the acorn-shaped capsule, bringing Behnken and Hurley’s speed of 17,500 miles per hour in orbit down to 350 mph upon atmospheric reentry, and eventually 15 mph at splashdown.

The pair were due to undergo medical checks onshore in Pensacola ahead of a flight to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

NASA officials have said Crew Dragon, a pod with seven astronaut seats, was in a “very healthy” condition while docked at the space station, where astronauts conducted tests and monitored how the spacecraft performs in space.

“I’m almost speechless as to how well things went today,” Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, told reporters after the weekend-long return sequence.

FLAG CAPTURED

NASA, aiming to galvanize a commercial space marketplace, awarded nearly $8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing Co collectively in 2014 to develop dueling space capsules, experimenting with a contract model that allows the space agency to buy astronaut seats from the two companies.

Billionaire entrepreneur Musk’s SpaceX became the first private company to send humans to orbit with the launch of Behnken and Hurley.

“Congratulations SpaceX & NASA on completing first crewed Dragon flight!!,” Musk wrote on Twitter after the splashdown, adding a U.S. flag emoji followed by “returned” — referring to a rivalry with Boeing Co over which company’s astronaut crew would be the first to retrieve an American flag left on the space station in 2011, when the last crewed mission launched from U.S. soil.

Behnken and Hurley brought the flag back to Earth, stowed as cargo in Crew Dragon.

The landmark mission, which took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 31, marked the first time the U.S. space agency launched humans from American soil since its shuttle program retired in 2011. Since then the United States has relied on Russia’s space program to launch its astronauts to the space station.

“It was a great relief when I saw Bob and Doug come out of the capsule, smiling, thumbs up, looking very cheerful,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told reporters. “That was the good moment.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

American actress Mindy Kaling finds Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor talented, wants to work with them

KATHMANDU: Indian origin American actress Mindy Kaling wants to work with Bollywood actresses Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor as she finds them talented. "I would love to work with Sonam Kapoor or Deepika Padukone. They're both so talented," Mindy was quoted as saying Read More...

Manchester City _Ilkay Gundogan

Man City's Gundogan tests positive for COVID-19

LONDON: Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League club said on Monday, making him the third player in the squad to return a positive test in recent weeks. City winger Riyad Mahrez and defender Aymeric Laporte previously tested positive for the Read More...

Djokovic to face Schwartzman in Italian Open final

ROME: Novak Djokovic was made to work hard by Casper Ruud in blustery conditions before the world number one got past the unseeded Norwegian 7-5 6-3 on Sunday to reach the Italian Open final. The Serbian had to save two set points in the first set before finding his groove to reach his 10th title Read More...

Leicester go top, Liverpool claim second win as goals fly in

LONDON: Champions Liverpool and Leicester City maintained their winning starts to the Premier League on Sunday as the second weekend of the new season produced a goal-rush. Sadio Mane scored twice just after the break to give Liverpool a 2-0 victory at Chelsea who played half the game with 10 men Read More...

Manchester City off to winning start with victory at Wolves

WOLVERHAMPTON: Manchester City got their Premier League campaign off to a flying start with a 3-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers thanks to first-half goals by Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden plus a late Gabriel Jesus strike on Monday. The result means there has not been a single drawn ma Read More...

Irrepressible Ibrahimovic scores twice as Milan win opener

MILAN: AC Milan's veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice and missed an open goal as he secured a 2-0 win over Bologna to get their Serie A campaign off to a winning start on Monday. The 38-year-old broke the deadlock with a towering header in the 35th minute and added the second wit Read More...

Kolti Primary Health Service

Four contract scrub typhus in Bajura

BAJURA, SEPTEMBER 21 Four persons were found to be infected with scrub typhus in Bajura today. Bajura District Health Office Chief Dayakrishna Panta said three persons in Bajura District Hospital and one in Kolti Primary Health Centre were infected with scrub typhus. District Hospital Chief Read More...

Large strip of land in Bhateri at risk of being swept away

DAMAULI, SEPTEMBER 21 Flood in the Madi River has swept away a large strip of land in Bhateri of Byas Municipality, Tanahun. According to local activist Ashok Kumar Shrestha, over 50 ropani land has been swept away by the flooded river in Bhateri at different times. Citing risk of erosi Read More...