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Dragon capsule with Nasa SpaceX astronauts splash into the Gulf of Mexico

Two astronauts have splashed down, as the first commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station returned to Earth.

The SpaceX Dragon Capsule carrying America’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken came down in the Gulf of Mexico just south of Pensacola on Florida’s Gulf coast.

A recovery vessel moved in to pick up the vehicle and extricate the men.




The touchdown marks the first crewed US water landing since the final outing of an Apollo command module 45 years ago.

Hurley’s and Behnken’s capsule hit the water at about 1848GMT.

Private boats which came close to the Dragon were asked to leave amid concern over hazardous chemicals venting from the capsule’s propulsion system.



Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said the presence of the boats “was not what we were anticipating”.

“What is not common is having passersby approach the vehicle close range with nitrogen tetroxide in the atmosphere; that’s not something that is good,” he said. “And we need to make sure that we’re warning people not to get close to the spacecraft in the future.”

“It’s truly our honour and privilege,” said Hurley as the astronauts arrived home.

“On behalf of the SpaceX and Nasa teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX,” SpaceX mission control responded.

President Donald Trump – who attended the capsule’s launch on 30 May – hailed its safe return.

 

“Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after very successful two month mission.”

The parachutes slowed the capsule from about 350mph to just roughly 15mph at splashdown.

Rigging was used to hoist the capsule out of the water and on to the recovery vessel. Technicians monitored “remnant vapours” around the spacecraft before the hatch was opened.




The men were checked over by medical staff before being flown to shore by helicopter.

The astronauts’ Dragon capsule launched to the space station at the end of May on a Falcon 9 rocket, also supplied by SpaceX.

It will now be refurbished to fly again next year.