NASA and SpaceX have concluded their 63-day Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission today. Suspended under four parachutes, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley dropped out of orbit in what was the first water landing by NASA since 1975. The NASA mission marks the return of the U.S.’s capability to launch its own astronauts and the first time Elon Musk’s company sent astronauts to space — making SpaceX the first private company to send people to orbit.
The Crew Dragon departed from the International Space Station on August 1 and set off for a multi-hour trip back to Earth and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. The re-entry process through Earth’s atmosphere is the second most dangerous phase of spaceflight. “Crew Dragon will be traveling at orbital velocity prior to reentry, moving at approximately 17,500 miles per hour,” NASA said in a statement on July 24. “The maximum temperature it will experience on reentry is approximately 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit.” After the landing, a SpaceX recovery vessel met Crew Dragon to collect the spacecraft and parachutes from the water. Hurley and Behnken’s safe return allows NASA to officially certify Crew Dragon as a human-rated spacecraft and opens the door to more people flying to space.
If data reviews from Demo-2 don’t show any major issues, NASA plans to launch the SpaceX Crew-1 mission in late September. It will be the first operational mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and will carry the first four person crew, including NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
In case you missed it, China has launched three spacecrafts to Mars.
— NASA (@NASA) August 2, 2020
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 2, 2020