An image taken by Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner from the International Space Station shows about twenty recreational vessels sailing to the Crew Dragon capsule minutes after their landing in the Gulf of Mexico. SpaceX said it was not his job to alienate the curious, and the Coast Guard defended himself arguing that he had no formal authority to prevent boaters from invading the area. The show was embarrassing.
After 64 days in orbit, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned to Earth in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. It was the first time that a private company had completed a manned space flight, and the first time since the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission that a US spacecraft re-entered the water. The capsule landed in the Gulf of Mexico, 63 kilometers from Pensacola, because the east coast of Florida was threatened by tropical storm Isaías.
With winds of 4 km / h and waves of 30 centimeters, the conditions were ideal for landing, but the calm, blue ocean also attracted recreational boats. According to him New York TimesThe Coast Guard deployed a 26-meter patrol boat four hours before the event to deter curious onlookers. She also sent out a radio broadcast two hours before the dip.
“With the limited resources available to us and without formal authority to establish zones that prevent seafarers from entering the area, numerous seafarers ignored requests from the Coast Guard crew and decided to invade the area, putting themselves and involved in the operation at risk, ”Petty Officer John Michelli told the newspaper.
About twenty small boats were seen a few meters from the capsule while the SpaceX rescue team checked the ship while waiting for the GO Navigator to take it out of the water. One of the ships appeared in the foreground on NASA’s live broadcast waving a Donald Trump campaign flag. These navigators could have been a hindrance in an emergency, but they also put their own health at risk by not taking into account that the ship’s propellants could expel toxic fumes, something that was demonstrated minutes later aboard the GO Navigator, when the The SpaceX team decided to delay the opening of the Crew Dragon’s hatch by verifying that the toxic gas levels were not yet at zero.
“The team we had deployed there was focused on Bob and Doug being put on the ship and safely removed from the capsule, it was not their job to patrol the area, we had the coast guard for that,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president. and chief operating officer of SpaceX, at a press conference. “But the lesson learned here is that we probably need more resources from the Coast Guard, and maybe more resources from SpaceX and NASA as well.”
The Coast Guard announced a “comprehensive review” of the situation with NASA and SpaceX. “This lack of respect for safety is something that the Coast Guard takes very seriously,” Michelli told The Verge, arguing that the area was “off the waterways of the United States” and it would have taken a lot of resources to make all ships turn around.