NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley departed on the SpaceX Crew Dragon on May 30

By Eric Todisco
August 02, 2020 02:57 PM
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NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have returned to Earth on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft over two months after their historic takeoff.

According to NASA, SpaceX made the splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 pm ET on Sunday after departing its port in space at 9:20 a.m.

Despite Tropical Storm Isaias' surge towards Florida's Atlantic shore, the spacecraft landed safely.

In addition, the spacecraft had minor technical difficulties earlier in the morning when a backup generator failed on the recovery ship prior to leaving port. However, SpaceX's splashdown was not affected.

Behnken, 50, and Hurley, 53, had been aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Dragon Endeavour, since Saturday evening when it undocked from the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft initially took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30 after it was originally scheduled for takeoff on May 27 and delayed due to weather.

The space vehicle took off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence watching from Kennedy Space Center.

Compared to the old Space Shuttle launches, attendance was otherwise limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, but many Floridians watched from nearby beaches, and people could also view a public livestream.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken
| Credit: John Raoux/AP/Shutterstock
Credit: Chris O'Meara/AP/Shutterstock

The day after takeoff, SpaceX arrived at the International Space Station, where Behnken and Hurley were greeted with hugs from the other astronauts in space.

"It's obviously been our honor to just be a small part of this," Hurley said upon arrival in space. "We have to give credit to SpaceX, the commercial crew program, and of course NASA. It's great to get the United States back in the crew launch business and we're just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex."

Behnken and Hurley's endeavor has been celebrated as the first flight of American astronauts on American-made rockets from U.S. soil after the last Space Shuttle mission in July 2011.

"Yesterday and today, you’ve inspired the Artemis generation, which is our next generation. And that’s what this is about," NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard told the pair after they arrived in space. "It's really bringing the children that we've got and our grandchildren forward so that they're the ones going into deep space."

"This is the dawn of a new era," Morhard added. "And we just thank you for being at the beginning of it."