Crew Dragon “Endeavour” performed a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico
The Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley splashed down off the coast of Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 p.m. Eastern.
After a series of security checkouts, recovery teams opened the Endeavour’s hatch at 3:59 p.m. Eastern. Behnken and Hurley were extracted approximately 10 minutes later.
This brings down the curtain on SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 mission to the ISS.
Pure, unadulterated success
With this landing, the Crew Dragon has successfully completed its first-ever passenger flight to orbit.
The mission began with the Endeavour’s launch on May 30th. Behnken and Hurley were launched inside the capsule and then docked with the International Space Station the next day.
The main purpose of the mission was to prove that the Crew Dragon is able to transport passengers to space. With the successful splashdown and recovery, the capsule has now proven that it can bring people back to earth safely.
What does Demo-2’s success mean for SpaceX and NASA
The mission’s success will allow SpaceX to be certified by NASA for regular crewed missions.
Additionally, SpaceX is now a qualified partner in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The latter is an initiative created by the agency that partners and liaises with private aerospace companies. The latter are tasked to “develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station”.
SpaceX will now officially line up two upcoming astronaut launches. The first one is due to take place during the month of September. It is set to transport 4 astronauts in total: 3 American and one Japanese. The second mission is due to take place during the first half of 2021. No official dates have been confirmed yet by SpaceX
As far as NASA is concerned, the success of the Demo-2 mission constitutes a turning point for the agency. With the certification of the Crew Dragon, NASA now has an American launch vehicle it can use.
In other words, it no longer has to rely on the Russian Federation to meet its human spaceflights needs.
Since 2011, the agency has been entirely dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets to transport its astronauts to and from the ISS, at about $90 million per seat.
In conclusion, the Demo-2 mission is a rousing success. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also tweeted a very significant sentence. Ladies and gentlemen, the human species is on its way to become a spacefaring civilization!