[ExI] Some uplifting news: SpaceX home safe...

Dylan Distasio interzone at gmail.com
Sun Aug 2 20:38:30 UTC 2020


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday
in a dramatic, retro-style splashdown, their capsule parachuting into the
Gulf of Mexico to close out an unprecedented test flight by Elon Musk’s
SpaceX company.

It was the first splashdown by U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first
commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from
orbit. The return clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as
next month and possible tourist flights next year.

Test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode the SpaceX Dragon capsule back
to Earth less than a day after departing the International Space Station
and two months after blasting off from Florida. The capsule parachuted into
the calm gulf waters about 40 miles off the coast of Pensacola, hundreds of
miles from Tropical Storm Isaias pounding Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” said Mission
Control from SpaceX headquarters.

“It was truly our honor and privilege,” replied Hurley.

More than an hour after splashdown, the astronauts emerged from their
capsule on the deck of a recovery ship, both signaling a thumbs-up as they
headed for medical exams.

Their ride home in the capsule dubbed Endeavour was fast, bumpy and hot, at
least on the outside.

The spacecraft went from a screaming orbital speed of 17,500 mph (28,000
kph) to 350 mph (560 kph) during atmospheric reentry, and finally to 15 mph
(24 kph) at splashdown. Peak heating during descent was 3,500 degrees
Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius). The anticipated top G forces felt by
the crew: four to five times the force of Earth’s gravity.

Within a half-hour of splashdown, the scorched and blistered 15-foot
capsule was on board a SpaceX recovery ship with a staff of more than 40,
including doctors and nurses. To keep the returning astronauts safe in the
pandemic, the recovery crew quarantined for two weeks and were tested for
the coronavirus.

The opening of the hatch was held up briefly by extra checks for toxic
rocket fumes outside the capsule. After medical exams, the astronauts were
expected to fly home to Houston for a reunion with their wives and sons.

Hurley offered final thanks just before he exited the capsule. “Anybody
who’s touched Endeavour, you should take a moment to just cherish the day,
especially given all the things that have happened this year.”
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