With everything that’s happening here on Earth, many people are looking upward for hope, and not just in the metaphorical sense. Space has always sparked the imagination as humanity’s next frontier and perhaps final hope and history will mark this day as another milestone in that ongoing journey. After successfully carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station, the collaboration between NASA and SpaceX saw the successful and safe return of the same astronauts onboard the world’s first commercially built and operated spacecraft, the Crew Dragon.
It feels almost like yesterday when that Crew Dragon made that historic launch that brought NASA’s Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley to the ISS. The two spent a total of 64 days in orbit and have bagged their own firsts and top marks in space travel and science history. Behnken, in particular, now has the third most spacewalking time among US astronauts, having spent 61 hours and 10 minutes spacewalking in total.
As of August 3, 2020, at 2:48 pm EDT, they were also the first American astronauts since 1975 to make a splashdown, with the Crew Dragon, nicknamed “Endeavor”, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico. The two astronauts have immediately flown back to Houston and the spacecraft is making its journey back to SpaceX’s Dragon Lair in Florida for inspection and processing of the vehicle’s data.
That last bit is, of course, critical for SpaceX’s ambitions and commercial profitability. The Demo-2 mission is a test of the safety and viability of using commercial spacecraft in ferrying NASA astronauts to and from the Space Station. Whether the same Crew Dragon capsule will be fit for reuse is still to be determined but that is the long-term goal, after all.
If SpaceX gets NASA’s certification, which is expected to take about six weeks, it will be preparing for its mission dubbed the Crew-1. Scheduled sometime in September, it will be the first operational mission that will carry not two but six astronauts to the ISS and bring them back home safely.