SpaceX Astronauts Pull Off First Water Landing In Over 40 Years

The SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts' water landing in the Gulf of Mexico was the first time a space expedition had done so since the 1970s.

SpaceX Astronauts Pull Off First Water Landing In Over 40 YearsA capsule with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico [NASA/Reuters]

SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts returned safely to earth after a historic expedition to the International Space Station on Sunday. It was also the first water landing for returning astronauts since NASA’s Apollo Programs in the 1970s.

The commercial space travel company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, The Boring Company and Neuralink, has made massive strides forwards in refining the logistics and processes behind launching astronauts into space and reducing costs. The Ultimate goal for SpaceX is to facilitate the first manned missions to Mars. A key component to the cost reducing measures Musk has envisioned for commercial space travel is to be able to reuse the rockets. The outcome of Sunday’s water landing for SpaceX, therefore, could be a massive stride forward in this regard.

As reported by Al Jazeera, two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned safely to earth after a two-month expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday at 18:48 GMT in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

However, astronauts typically return to earth by land and this is the first water-landing of a space capsule re-entering Earth’s atmosphere since the 1970s. While falling through the atmosphere, the Crew Dragon withstood temperatures of up to 1927°C, relying specifically on heat-shields to protect the crew as well as the carrier. It was the first time Space X had brought a carrier back that contained humans, rather than just cargo.

“Bringing a spaceship home, that’s a really big deal,” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said during an earlier news conference on the landing. “And it’s very important, as part of that sacred honour that we have, for ensuring that we bring Bob and Doug back home to their families, to their kids, and making sure that they’re safe.”

NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Stitch, praised the Crew Dragon, lauding its expedition as a success and a blue-print for future private-public cooperations in space travel.

“I’m speechless,” he told Al Jazeera, after the SpaceX water landing. “This [mission] proved that these public-private partnerships are successful.”

The Crew Dragon capsule will now return to SpaceX’s Dragon lair at Cape Canaveral, where it will be studied and prepared for its next journey. Engineers will study flight data and assess the capsule’s hardware in preparation for future missions and to incrementally improve missions as SpaceX chases down its grand plans with NASA to return to the moon and venture beyond into Mars.

 

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