Two US astronauts who flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in SpaceX’s space ship have splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico following a two-month voyage.
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley landed safely after what was NASA’s first crewed mission from the US in nine years.
The pair undocked from the ISS on Saturday and returned home to land in the waves off Florida’s Pensacola coast on Sunday local time after a 21-hour overnight journey aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft.
The successful splashdown was a final key test of whether Elon Musk’s spacecraft can transport astronauts to and from orbit, a feat no private company has accomplished before.
“On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX,” SpaceX mission control said upon splashdown.
For the return sequence, on-board thrusters and two sets of parachutes worked autonomously to slow the capsule, bringing Behnken and Hurley’s speed of 28,100 kilometres per hour in orbit down to 563kph upon atmospheric re-entry, and eventually 24 kph at splashdown.
During re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule’s outer shell withstood temperatures as high as 1,900 degrees while Behnken and Hurley, strapped inside the cabin, experienced 29C temperatures.
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