Summer 2020 was one of the busiest ever for rocket launches. To celebrate this unprecedented spell of lively launchpad activity, let’s revisit the best ones.
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NASA has tested the booster rocket technology that will be used to power future Artemis missions to the moon.
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NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken had quite a trip!
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NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy has photographed Hurricane Laura from his vantage point on the International Space Station.
The air leak "presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station," according to NASA.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy has captured stunning pictures of hurricane Genevieve from his vantage point on the International Space Station.
"Do you really want to get to the Moon by 2024 or not?"
This follows the recent successful test flight of the capsule
SpaceX safely returned NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth in a Crew Dragon capsule on August 2 — completing the rocket company's first human journey. In a briefing after the landing, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and COO, told Business Insider the mission went "surprisingly well." It wasn't without issues or quirks, though, such as errant boaters swarming the recovery site amid toxic propellant fumes detected outside the spacecraft. The astronauts said riding Crew Dragon through Earth's atmosphere was like being "inside of an animal." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. For the SpaceX and NASA officials overseeing the return of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to earth, success wasn't just seeing a spaceship designed, built, and operated by SpaceX safely splash into the Gulf of Mexico. It was seeing the whole, history-making operation go off very nearly without a hitch.  "The greatest surprise is that this mission was as smooth as it is," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and COO, told Business Insider in a press briefing held a couple of hours after Demo-2's landing. But the denouement of the 65-day commercial test mission, called Demo-2, was not without surprises — some concerning, some just curious. Behnken and Hurley launched May 30 aboard SpaceX's 13.5-ton Crew Dragon spacecraft and returned to Earth Sunday in its crew capsule. By completing the mission, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, not only checked off its first-ever flight of people, but also resurrected crewed spaceflight from US soil, ending a nine-year pause created by NASA's retirement of the space shuttle. NASA, which has funded Crew Dragon's development and launches with $2.7 billion since 2009, seemed just as awestruck as SpaceX. "It did not seem like this was the first NASA-SpaceX mission with astronauts on board," astronaut Mike Hopkins, who's slated to fly on SpaceX's next Crew Dragon mission, said in the briefing. Still, Shotwell called out some "foibles" seen during the mission, some of which were highly visible in footage of the mission, and others that were not. "This was a demonstration mission," Shotwell said. "This is the time that you go learn about these things, and we'll certainly be better prepared next time." A failed backup generator Once Behnken and Hurley got the OK to undock from the ISS and return home, SpaceX deployed fleets of ships into the Gulf of Mexico to recover the capsule and the men inside. But one of its main recovery ships, called "GO Navigator," hit a snag before it left port: Its backup generator failed. While it didn't materially impact the mission — the ship handled the pickup just fine with its main generator — NASA and SpaceX both want redundancy so that nothing can get in the way of scooping its finest from the sea. "Next time we're going to have two backup generators," Shotwell said. Toxic fumes outside Crew Dragon To stay in orbit — essentially continuous freefall — around Earth from 250 miles up, Crew Dragon must move at a speed of about 17,500 mph. Getting back to the ground requires slowing down, and to do that, the astronauts opened the nosecone of the ship and fired its thrusters against the direction of flight for more than 11 minutes. The propellant that powers those thrusters is a brownish substance called nitrogen tetroxide, or nitrogen peroxide. Although the hypergolic (spontaneously igniting) fuel packs a lot of punch in a small amount of space, it is also a potent oxidizer that, if inhaled at concentrations as low as 50 parts per million, can kill a person by causing their lungs to fill with fluid. After the Crew Dragon capsule splashed down near the coast of Pensacola, Florida, recovery crews detected some of the oxidizer outside the vehicle. So they purged the system and waited about 45 minutes for the fumes to blow away. Steve Stich, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program (which funds SpaceX as well as Boeing, which is also planning commercial flights), said during the briefing that the detected levels were "within limits" and recovery crews could have extracted the astronauts if needed. But they decided to play it safe. "We think there may be some mechanism where it's getting trapped into the service section from thruster firings during entry," Stich said. "We'll go figure out a way to handle it better on the next flight, perhaps starting with a purge as soon as we get on the vehicle." Space fans who put themselves and recovery operations 'in potential danger' When the astronauts landed, recovery boats weren't the only ones waiting to greet them: A flotilla of pleasure craft raced out to meet the spaceship, too. The scene alarmed the Coast Guard and mission managers, who were aware of the dangers of toxic fumes — especially to unwary spectators. The Coast Guard said it warned boaters multiple times ahead of the splashdown with radio alerts and physical warnings, according to a statement issued to CBS. Yet, because the landing site was in international waters, the Coast Guard lacked the legal authority and enough boats to do much about the problem. "Numerous boaters ignored the Coast Guard crews' requests and decided to encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger," the statement said. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Sunday's post-splashdown briefing that the crowd of boats "was not what we were anticipating." In the future, he added, NASA will utilize more resources to clear private boats from the ocean landing area. Behnken said Tuesday that he and Hurley "had absolutely no awareness" of the unwelcome flotilla of boaters after landing, but had a message for them. "Just a word to the wise for folks who have ideas of coming that close again in the future," Behnken said: "We take extreme precautions to make sure it is safe, and we do that for a reason." Glitchy iPad Minis Most of the apparent issues the astronauts experienced were not nearly as serious as the toxic fumes and errant boaters, and some fell into the category of spaceflight curiosities. For example, after undocking and flying away from the ISS, Behnken paged SpaceX's mission control center in Hawthorne, California for some tech support. He reported experiencing issues with an iPad Mini loaded with apps that the astronauts use as digital manuals for their spaceship and mission. "The timeline application on my tablet gives me an error message that Safari cannot open the page," Behnken said, noting the app said it couldn't load the app due to not being connected to the internet. The error appeared to be a caching issue, according to Space Explored, and occurred after SpaceX tried to beam updated mission timeline data to the tablet. Riding back to Earth 'inside of animal' And while both Behnken and Hurley had each flown to space twice before Demo-2, those flights were aboard NASA's space shuttle: a 100-ton orbiter with wings that landed on runways. It made for a much different ride than a 10.5-ton, gumdrop-shaped capsule plunging into water. As Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported, the landing experience — though they were ultimately pleased with it — caught the astronauts off-guard. "I would say it was more than what Doug and I expected," Behnken said in a press briefing on Tuesday. "I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired." Behnken said the ship "came alive" and "it felt like we were inside of an animal" as it fired thrusters to keep a proper orientation during atmospheric reentry. He added: "It doesn't sound like a machine — it sounds like an animal." The astronauts also said the splashdown felt "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat," Behnken said. Though not problems per se, the astronauts' impressions of landing will help future crews know what sensations to expect as they slow down from 17,500 mph to bobbing on the ocean's surface. 'You can never get complacent with a space vehicle' SpaceX is now poring over a mountain of mission data with NASA "just to make sure that there's nothing untoward," Stich said during the briefing. He added that aerospace engineers from both sides will be paying special attention to telemetry data related to undocking, spaceflight, atmospheric reentry, and parachute performance. The goal is to certify Crew Dragon for routine spaceflight, possibly within the next couple of months. That way operational missions can proceed, NASA can make the most use of its $100 billion investment in the ISS, and private passengers like Tom Cruise can, too. Based on an early look, no SpaceX or NASA officials flagged any showstoppers. Bridenstine said the spaceship was "in pretty good shape" heading into its review, which seeks to reuse the capsule on future flights. But Hurley — a Marine Corps test pilot — said Tuesday that he believes Crew Dragon needs a few more missions before he'd consider the vehicle "completely tested" and safe for flying civilians. "The space business, like a lot of those technically challenging businesses, is not forgiving," Hurley said. "Don't just assume, because the last flight went perfectly, that the next flight is going to go perfectly. You have to do that rigor and that analysis and that attention to detail." He added: "You can never get complacent with a space vehicle." Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed reporting. Have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at [email protected] or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here.SEE ALSO: Trump falsely said NASA 'was closed and dead' before he was president and appeared to take credit for a private SpaceX launch DON'T MISS: New video shows SpaceX's astronaut crew plummeting through Earth's atmosphere, floating under parachutes, and landing in the ocean Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
SpaceX and NASA's Crew Demo-2 mission is officially a success after the safe return of the Crew Dragon capsule and the astronauts inside. Elon Musk has said that this was the most nerve-racking part of the entire mission. High speeds and temperatures make it extremely dangerous to reenter Earth's atmosphere and splash down safely. Here's everything that had to go right in order to bring Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley home. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Following is a transcript of the video. Abby Tang: Moving at about 28,000 kilometers per hour through temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and the astronauts inside safely reentered Earth's atmosphere on August 2nd. NASA: Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. Abby Tang:  The world nervously watched the historic launch, the first from US soil in almost a decade on May 30th, 2020. But it's this landing that Elon Musk most feared. Here's what had to go right in order to bring Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley home. There are two main reasons why reentry is the most dangerous part of the mission. Extreme speed and temperature. SpaceX and NASA had to think about these factors in three key ways. The first pain point was finding the precise angle for reentry. Not steep enough, the Crew Dragon would have bounced right off the atmosphere and back into orbit. Too sharp or too fast and the astronauts could have faced fatal gravitational forces and the spacecraft could have caused enough drag to break up and disintegrate. Then even at the correct angle, moving at about 25 times the speed of sound through the atmosphere, creates extreme friction, which produces superheated plasma. A heat shield has to deflect and absorb the energy created by the plasma. At 3,500 degrees, the shield gets hot enough to glow, but Musk said "due to the Crew Dragon's asymmetric design, "the craft could have over-rotated during reentry "and diverted plasma into launch escape pods on the side." If that happened, the ship could have overheated in some parts or started wobbling, causing the crew to lose control. The plasma caused a six minute communications blackout between the Crew Dragon and Earth. NASA: Dragon SpaceX, comm check. Abby Tang: So if anything went wrong in that moment, remote control would have been impossible. In 2019, auditor's listed parachute problems as a key risk to NASA's commercial crew program. And the physics turbulence, a space capsule parachute goes through is one of the most difficult calculations for researchers. SpaceX and NASA had to design a completely new system for the Crew Dragon. After multiple versions and dozens of tests, the Mark three design was approved. Even so Musk's worry was that they might not deploy correctly or that the system would guide the Crew Dragon to the wrong splashdown location. All of these risks were assessed and calculated six ways to Sunday as Musk told aviation week, but they could never be fully done away with. NASA estimated that there was a one in 276 chance of this mission being fatal, but both Behnken and Hurley told us they were comfortable with those odds. Luckily that bet paid off. We can officially call this historic mission a success. And SpaceX is set to fly the same Crew Dragon back into space with four astronauts in spring of 2021.    Join the conversation about this story »
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NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley completed their mission on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship when they landed in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. The spaceship's scorching-hot fall through Earth's atmosphere, parachute deployments, and splashdown went as planned. From inside the Crew Dragon, Behnken said the return trip felt like being "inside of an animal," with violent jolts along the way. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley plunged through Earth's atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound on Sunday, slowing just in time to land safely off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. The splashdown concluded their two-month mission flying SpaceX's new spaceship — the Crew Dragon — to the International Space Station and back, making them the first people to ever fly aboard a commercial spacecraft. Each step in their return trip to Earth went as planned. But inside the spaceship, the astronauts said, the flight didn't feel as smooth as it may have looked. "The landing was — I would say it was more than what Doug and I expected," Behnken said in a press briefing on Tuesday. "I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired." Though they were pleased with the process, Behnken added, "it felt like we were inside of an animal." Of the mission in general, he added, the astronauts will have suggestions to help SpaceX and NASA make the Crew Dragon "a little bit more comfortable" for future astronauts. The pivotal moments of the landing process — the capsule separating from its trunk, the parachutes deploying as they approached the Gulf of Mexico — felt "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat," Behnken said. The first of those jolts came when the capsule jettisoned its trunk — a lower section outfitted with fuel tanks, solar panels, and other hardware, which the astronauts no longer needed. The ride only got bumpier from there. 'It doesn't sound like a machine' Once they started edging into the atmosphere, Crew Dragon "came alive," Behnken said, firing its thruster to stay on course. The astronauts could hear the atmosphere rumbling around them. "As the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that that shimmy in your body," Behnken said. "So we could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws." The spacecraft fired its thrusters continuously, pushing itself further into the atmosphere. Behnken said he recorded some audio of the sounds, which got louder as they descended. "It doesn't sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal," he said. That's when he felt the capsule heating up, and the force of Earth's gravity pulling on them for the first time in two months. He said it felt like being in a centrifuge. That strong force restricted their movements, so they didn't get to crane their necks to look out the windows below their feet. If they had, they might have seen the layer of scorching-hot plasma that was wrapping around the spacecraft — a "really thin, pinkish hue," as Hurley described it from his prior experience on the space shuttle. Then the parachutes deployed, giving them "a pretty significant jolt," Behnken said. A few minutes later, the capsule landed in the ocean. "We felt the splash and we saw it splash up over the windows," Behnken said. "It was just a great relief, I think, for both of us at that point."SEE ALSO: New video shows SpaceX's astronaut crew plummeting through Earth's atmosphere, floating under parachutes, and landing in the ocean Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
NASA has posted a high-res video showing the Crew Capsule returning home
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship splashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, returning NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from a high-stakes mission to the space station. The demonstration mission resurrected US human spaceflight after a nine-year hiatus. The astronauts were the first people to fly in a commercial spaceship. Here are 27 incredible photos from their journey. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX and NASA made history on Sunday when a toasted, gumdrop-shaped spaceship splashed into the Gulf of Mexico. The Crew Dragon capsule — designed by SpaceX with funding from NASA — was returning astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth after an unprecedented mission to the International Space Station. It was the first time a private company had taken humans into space. But this was just a demonstration mission. Its success tees NASA up to ferry astronauts regularly to and from the space station aboard the Crew Dragon.  "This day heralds a new age of space exploration," Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, said in a briefing after the splashdown, adding, "I'm not very religious, but I prayed for this one." Here are the best photos from the launch, the astronauts' time in space, and their fiery plunge back to Earth.SEE ALSO: NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, whose husband just flew on SpaceX's Crew Dragon, will pilot the spaceship in the spring DON'T MISS: Meet Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, 2 'badass' astronauts, engineers, and 'space dads' who flew SpaceX's Crew Dragon to orbit and back Behnken and Hurley were the first people ever to fly a commercial spacecraft. Their mission, called Demo-2, revived the US's ability to launch and fly its own astronauts, which it lost after the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. For the last nine years, NASA relied on increasingly expensive Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station On May 30, Behnken and Hurley climbed into the Crew Dragon and launched into space atop one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets. They had first attempted the launch three days earlier, but cloudy weather made it unsafe for the rocket to fly. On both launch days, the astronauts were helped into their spacesuits at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The men said goodbye to their families. Both are married to astronauts, and they each have a young son. NASA TV microphones picked up Behnken telling his son: "Be good for mom. Make her life easy." The astronauts couldn't hug their families because they had just spent two weeks in quarantine to ensure they didn't accidentally carry COVID-19 to the space station. Behnken and Hurley had been working with SpaceX for five years as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The program is NASA's solution to the void left by the space shuttles . It funded both SpaceX and Boeing to build human-grade commercial spaceships, but SpaceX got to its crewed flight first. In a press briefing ahead of the launch, Behnken told Business Insider that he and Hurley had gained more insight into the ways the mission could fail "than any crew has in recent history, just in terms of understanding the different scenarios that are at play." Inside Crew Dragon before they launched, NASA's livestream showed the astronauts closing their eyes and taking deep breaths as they waited for the final countdown. NASA had estimated a 1-in-276 chance that the mission would be fatal. Behnken said that they were "really comfortable" with those odds. The rocket lifted off at 3:22 p.m. ET, then the Crew Dragon capsule separated from the body of the Falcon 9. On Earth, teams from SpaceX and NASA celebrated the success. "I'm really quite overcome with emotion," Musk told reporters. "I've spent 18 years working toward this goal, so it's hard to believe that it's happened," Musk added. "This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars, of life becoming multiplanetary, a base on the moon, and expanding beyond Earth." Once they were safely orbiting Earth, Behnken and Hurley named their Crew Dragon capsule "Endeavour" — a tribute to the last space shuttle ever built. The next day, Endeavour opened its nose cone and docked to the space station. After a hatch-opening procedure that took about two hours, Behnken and Hurley floated onto the ISS. Their new crewmates — NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner — were waiting to welcome them. Upon arrival, they displayed a trophy for SpaceX: a US flag that the last space shuttle crew left on the ISS. It waited nine years for NASA's next human launch from US soil. They effectively claimed victory for SpaceX in a game of capture the flag that Barack Obama started when he developed the Commercial Crew Program. The spaceship remained docked to the ISS for the next two months. It was designed to survive up to 110 days in the harsh environment of space. While on the ISS, Behnken and Hurley worked on science experiments that NASA conducts in microgravity. Behnken and Cassidy went on a couple of spacewalks together. They did routine maintenance outside the station: replacing batteries, installing new equipment, and removing old parts. Then came the high-stakes final leg of the Demo-2 mission: coming home. Behnken and Hurley crawled back into the Crew Dragon on Saturday, August 1, and undocked from the space station. After a night's rest for the astronauts (and several hours of maneuvering the spaceship), the Endeavour capsule fired its thrusters and pushed itself into Earth's atmosphere on Sunday.   Musk had previously said the blistering, 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit plunge through Earth's atmosphere was his "biggest concern." That's because of the capsule's asymmetric design, which is necessary for the emergency-escape system that jettisons the capsule away if a launching rocket fails in midair.  "If you rotate too much, then you could potentially catch the plasma in the super Draco escape thruster pods," Musk told Aviation Week's Irene Klotz in May, a few days before the launch. "We've looked at this six ways to Sunday, so it's not that I think this will fail. It's just that I worry a bit that it is asymmetric on the backshell." At the end of the astronauts' descent, parachutes slowed the fall. The capsule landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET on Sunday, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. SpaceX and NASA teams in speedboats rushed to recover the capsule and pull the astronauts out — but civilian onlookers in their own boats swarmed the scene, too. "Maybe next time we shouldn't announce our landing zone," the SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during NASA's live feed of the landing. Even cosmonaut Ivan Vagner — the astronauts' former crewmate on the International Space Station — could see the boats speeding toward the capsule from 250 miles above Earth. Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1290014627087167496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw [email protected] и @Astro_Doug, I congratulate you on your successful return to Earth! A few minutes after landing, the ISS flew over the #CrewDragon splashdown site in the Gulf of Mexico. pic.twitter.com/MZugsCt8tw In a statement to CBS, the Coast Guard said it warned boaters multiple times ahead of the splashdown with radio alerts and physical warnings, yet lacked an order to legally enforce a hazard zone. "Numerous boaters ignored the Coast Guard crews' requests and decided to encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger," the statement said. Some of the boats passed close to the capsule, including one with a passenger waving a Trump flag. NASA officials said this was dangerous for the astronauts and the onlookers.   That's because the Endeavour capsule can be shrouded in poisonous fumes after it plummets through Earth's atmosphere.  The crowd "was not what we were anticipating," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a briefing after the splashdown.  "That's not something that is good," he added. "We need to make sure that we're warning people not to get close to the spacecraft in the future."   After clearing away the unauthorized boats, the recovery team lifted the toasted capsule out of the water. The team picked up a dangerous gas around the capsule called nitrogen tetroxide. They waited for it to clear before opening the spaceship's hatch. The recovery team then helped Behnken and Hurley out of their seats and onto stretchers — a standard procedure for astronauts post-landing — so they could get immediate medical evaluations. The men were fine but found it difficult to stand after the splashdown. That's normal for ISS astronauts, since their bodies become accustomed to floating in space and suddenly have to work much harder to move against Earth's gravity. A helicopter took Behnken and Hurley to dry land. "This has been a quite an odyssey the last five, six, seven, eight years," Hurley told team members and press shortly after the landing. "When the space shuttles retired, when Doug took his final flight to wrap that up, I think it was a sad day for us," Behnken said. "There's something special about having that capability to launch and bring your own astronauts home." Dave Mosher contributed reporting.
The International Space Station may have been around for more than two decades now, but NASA and SpaceX still managed to make history this weekend with the successful splashdown of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. A huge milestone in NASA’s Commercial Crew project, it marked the first time a commercially-built and operated, American crew spacecraft flew to and from the ISS. … Continue reading
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday evening.
Here's what's in store for SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule following its splashdown
The pair offered smiles and a thumbs-up from inside the capsule
"We should think about this as a springboard to doing even harder things."
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Photos from the International Space Station captured the historic landing of SpaceX's first crewed mission from 250 miles above Earth. The photos from space show the boats that swarmed the capsule after splashdown — many of them civilian onlookers. A US Coast Guard statement obtained by CBS said "numerous boaters" ignored instructions to leave the area, "putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, tucked inside SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship, survived a fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere on Sunday. They landed safely in the Gulf of Mexico, a return that marked the completion of the first human space mission in a commercial vehicle. As the toasted capsule bobbed in the water, its parachutes floating around it, it was quickly swarmed by boats. Some of them were recovery boats with professional teams from NASA and SpaceX. But many were just onlookers. The crowd "was not what we were anticipating," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a briefing shortly after the splashdown. The astronauts' former crewmate on the space station — Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner — spotted the landing and the boats from his vantage point 250 miles above Earth. He shared pictures of it in a tweet, below. [email protected] и @Astro_Doug, I congratulate you on your successful return to Earth! A few minutes after landing, the ISS flew over the #CrewDragon splashdown site in the Gulf of Mexico. pic.twitter.com/MZugsCt8tw — Ivan Vagner (@ivan_mks63) August 2, 2020   The US Coast Guard had cleared the area ahead of the landing, Bridenstine explained, but after the capsule splashed down, "the boats just made a beeline for it," he said. Some of the boats passed very close to the capsule, including one with a passenger waving a Trump flag. "Maybe next time we shouldn't announce our landing zone," SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during NASA's live feed of the landing. In a statement issued to CBS, the Coast Guard said that it warned boaters multiple times ahead of the splashdown with radio alerts and physical warnings, yet lacked an order to legally enforce a hazard zone. "[N]umerous boaters ignored the Coast Guard crews' requests and decided to encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger," the statement read. Bridenstine pledged that NASA would "do a better job" of clearing boats for future water landings. The agency has contracted six round-trip Crew Dragon flights to bring astronauts to and from the space station. Having bystander boats that close to the capsule can be dangerous — both for the astronauts and for people on the boats. That's because the capsule was shrouded in low levels of a poisonous gas called nitrogen tetroxide. "What is not common is having passers-by approach the vehicle close range with nitrogen tetroxide in the atmosphere. That's not something that is good," he said "We need to make sure that we're warning people not to get close to the spacecraft in the future." The recovery teams had to wait for the gas to clear before they removed Behnken and Hurley from the capsule. Bridenstine said NASA and SpaceX will look through the data to figure out why the gas lingered more than expected. In addition to Vagner, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy is still on the space station, as is cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin.  "We had the luxury of having a just a super crew on board the International Space Station, with Chris Cassidy, with Anatoly and Ivan. They just took wonderful care of us," Behnken said in a briefing after the landing.  The next astronauts slated to fly the Crew Dragon — Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Soichi Noguchi, and Shannon Walker — are expected to launch to the ISS in September.  This story has been updated with new information. Dave Mosher contributed reporting.SEE ALSO: NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, whose husband just flew on SpaceX's Crew Dragon, will pilot the spaceship in the spring DON'T MISS: SpaceX just won an epic, high-stakes game of capture the flag that Barack Obama started 9 years ago Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley just completed a crucial test flight of SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship. The men splashed the space capsule into the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, following a risky plunge through Earth's atmosphere. NASA's administrator said the mission marks "the next era in human spaceflight," since the agency is now poised to purchase flights from SpaceX. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said after the mission's launch that he once doubted the company would ever see this day. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space. On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida. Ahead of the landing, the crew undocked from the $150 billion International Space Station, where they'd spent 63 days, then performed a series of maneuvers to return home to their families. The capsule handily survived a blistering 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit return through Earth's atmosphere, a high-stakes parachute deployment, and the final splashdown. Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.  "Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely," Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. "Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour." "It's absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team," a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about $2.7 billion in contracts from NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley's demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30. With Demo-2's completion, SpaceX has put an end to a nine-year drought of crewed spaceflight from US soil. The company also resurrected NASA's ability to reach the ISS, where the agency hopes to ramp up work to help it return humans to the moon and eventually reach Mars. The mission's end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens. "We don't want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said during a NASA TV broadcast ahead of the landing. He added: "This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don't want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space." In a news briefing following the landing, officials and astronauts remarked on how uneventful the astronaut's return flight was (except for a few surprises on the ground, such as civilian boats pulling up to the space capsule). "It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board," Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who's slated to fly on SpaceX's next mission, Crew-1, said. "It seemed to go extremely smoothly." Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback. "I think we're surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did," she said. American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil Before Demo-2, the United States hadn't launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission. During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia's Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive. Over time, Russia charged more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost rose from about $21 million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than $90 million per seat on a planned flight for October. A seat on SpaceX's Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost $55 million (not including NASA's $2.7 billion in funding), according to NASA's inspector general. Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle's seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people). Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.  With SpaceX's successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror. "This is the culmination of a dream," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told "CBS This Morning" ahead of the mission's launch in May. "This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal." In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station's microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more. "The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical," Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. "We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world." Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That's hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX. The company plans to fly tourists into space: In February, SpaceX announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that the company Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX. There's even a flight of actor Tom Cruise aboard Crew Dragon in the works — part of a plan to film a movie aboard the ISS. But Musk's primary aim is to launch people around the moon, later land others on the lunar surface, then move on to establish Martian cities. His ultimate goal is to put 1 million settlers on the red planet. NASA shares some of Musk's ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals. Bridenstine also said  that he'd eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.  "The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities," Bridenstine said ahead of the landing. 'I doubted us, too' During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company. "To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, 'Well, I think you're probably right,'" Musk said. He added: "It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 ... People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? 'You start with a large one' is the punch line." Musk said SpaceX "just barely made it there," adding, "So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day." This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published at 2:48 p.m. ET on August 2, 2020. Do you have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at [email protected] or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here.SEE ALSO: Why SpaceX's astronaut mission for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk's rocket company and the US as a whole DON'T MISS: SpaceX is about to win a high-stakes game of capture the flag that Barack Obama started 9 years ago Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
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NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Sunday, ending a historic two-month trip to space.
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The historic first test flight of SpaceX's new capsule is now complete
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That’s a wrap on SpaceX’s crewed demo mission, which clears the way for the company to regularly launch astronauts for NASA.
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The historic Demo-2 mission makes a clean water landing in the Gulf of Mexico and the crew exits the capsule.
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