SpaceX Capsule Successfully Completes First Splashdown In 45 Years

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have returned home from their voyage to the International Space Station on board the SpaceX Dragon Crew capsule. They made history on May 30, when they became to first humans to be ferried into outer space by a commercial aerospace company. It was also the first time the United States had launched astronauts since discontinuing the space shuttle program in 2011.

After spending just over two months on the International Space Station, Hurley and Behnken boarded the Dragon Crew for the return trip. The ride home was bumpy as the capsule slammed into the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of about 17,500 mph, causing the exterior of the craft to heat up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. As the capsule cut through the atmosphere, it decelerated to 350 mph in 11 minutes. 

Once the craft slowed down enough, it deployed parachutes and gently floated toward the water until it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico right on schedule at 2:48 p.m. ET. A SpaceX recovery ship named GO Navigator was standing by in the area to retrieve the capsule and the crew.

It was the first time that astronauts have made a water landing since 1975. When Boeing's Starliner capsule is ready to take astronauts to and from the space station, it will land on the ground, just like the space shuttle, and Russian and Chinese spacecraft.

Photo: Twitter/SpaceX