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SpaceX brings NASA astronauts home safe in milestone mission

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Aug 03, 2020 - 05:53 AM

WASHINGTON — America’s first crewed spaceship to fly to the International Space Station in nearly a decade returned safely to Earth on Sunday, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico.

The successful mission, carried out jointly by SpaceX and NASA, demonstrated that the United States has the capacity once more to send its astronauts to space and bring them back.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed into the water off Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 pm (1848 GMT), trailed by its four main parachutes.

It was the first water landing for a crewed US spaceship since the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission.

“It’s truly our honor and privilege,” said pilot Doug Hurley, who was joined on the mission by commander Bob Behnken.

“On behalf of the NASA and SpaceX teams, welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” replied SpaceX’s Mike Heiman, to laughter in the control room.

A flotilla of civilian boats swarmed the landing zone as a recovery ship sped to the scorched capsule and hoisted it aboard with its crane.

The hatch opening was briefly delayed as a team worked to stop a leak of rocket fuel vapor, but around an hour after splashdown, the astronauts exited the capsule and headed for shore on a helicopter.

They were reunited with their families in Houston, where they walked off a plane — in apparently good physical shape and upbeat spirits — at a military base.

Addressing a socially distanced welcome ceremony in a hangar, Behnken, a veteran of the Space Shuttle program, praised the SpaceX team behind the successful mission.

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