The landmark NASA mission that sent two astronauts into space two months ago put an end to this Saturday: the two crewmen successfully landed at a point in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, on the northwest coast of Florida at 2: 48 pm eastern time.
“Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” said the company’s Mission Control. SpaceX’s Navigator ship was only about three nautical miles from the site, where he arrived in less than 30 minutes to take charge of recovering the ship.
The two astronauts, who are “fine,” a NASA spokeswoman confirmed during the live broadcast of the end of the Demo-2 mission, will undergo medical checkups before traveling by air to Houston, Texas.
The return to Earth began when the SpaceX company Dragon capsule successfully undocked from the International Space Station shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The return trip lasted for 19 hours.
The maneuver was at risk due to the passage of Hurricane Isaías through that area, which could complicate the re-entry of the capsule into the Earth’s atmosphere. Despite being downgraded to a tropical storm this Saturday, the landing occurred without incident. NASA was forecasting favorable weather on the opposite coast of Pensacola.
It was a mission that put an end to NASA’s dependence on the Russians to travel into space: it was the first time in 45 years that a ship with American astronauts has landed at sea. The last was the United States’ Apollo-Soyuz mission with the Soviet Union in 1975.
The astronauts Bob Behnken y Doug Hurley they made history two months ago when NASA sent the space aboard a US spacecraft that took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida., on the agency’s first manned mission since 2011.
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, from Elon Musk’s private company, was stationed at the international station as part of the Demo-2 mission, the first private project that shows that Musk’s company is capable of commercial space flight.
“It’s not intuitive, but Isaiah can help bring about good weather by landing a few hundred miles west,” Zebulon Scoville, NASA flight director, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
The spacecraft endured temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it pierced the atmosphere and a parachute quartet finally shot out to slow the 21,200-pound (over nine-and-a-half-ton) capsule into contact with the sea.
The return home of the astronauts ended a two-month mission, which meant putting an end to the manned space launch drought in the country, which depended on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz to put the agency’s astronauts into orbit. American since it’s canceled its shuttle program in 2011.
Hurley and Behnken’s takeoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 30 made the SpaceX company the first private company to send people into orbit. Now SpaceX, founded in 2002, has been the first company to bring astronauts back from orbit.
“The hardest part was throwing ourselves, but the most important thing is taking us back home”Behnken said Saturday that he and Hurley brought back a blue and purple dinosaur named Tremor, a toy their children chose to accompany them on the trip.
The space station commander, Chris Cassidy, who will remain on board alongside two Russian astronauts until October, presented Hurley with the small American flag left by the previous crew.
The flag, which also flew on the first shuttle flight in 1981, became an award for the company that first put astronauts into orbit.
In 2014 NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX contracts for $ 6.8 billion. to develop the commercial space transportation program to stop depending on the Russians. With this mission, SpaceX overtook Boeing, which is not expected to launch its first team until next year with plans to land in the southwest of the country.
“We are a little sad to see them leave but very excited about what it means for our international space program to add the ability to have commercial capsules,” said Cassidy. The next SpaceX crew flight is scheduled for the end of September.