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The splashdown that made the rounds on the internet has finally been executed successfully. NASA astronauts Douglas and Behnken safely splashed down in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, on 2nd August 2020 at 2:48 pm EDT (12:18 am IST). NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated:

Welcome home, Bob and Doug! Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for the incredible work to make this test flight possible. [..] It’s a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together to do something once thought impossible. Partners are key to how we go farther than ever before and take the next steps on daring missions to the Moon and Mars.

The splashdown

Douglas and Behnken’s splashdown marked the first such event for America since astronauts Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald “Deke” Slayton landed in the Pacific Ocean in 1975 as part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

The first confirmation of the presence of the spacecraft came from the sight of the four primary parachutes which floated down to the waters. At splashdown, the speed of descent reduced from 350 mph to 15 mph.

The capsule was hoisted out of the water by rigging, and SpaceX’s personnel monitored the “remnant vapors” around the vessel before opening the hatch.

The mission

The most anticipated splashdown marked yet another successful technology demonstration from NASA and SpaceX. For the uninitiated, the Demo-2 test flight launched on 30th May as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. For the first time since 2011, the astronauts were sent to the International Space Station.

The final test flight will allow SpaceX to analyze the performance of the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 rocket, and events of in-orbit docking, splashdown, and recovery.

The mission is believed to have the potential to revolutionize the future of space exploration programs, bringing humans one step closer to commercial travel to Earth’s low orbit, Moon and Mars. The American government also stated that partnerships with private service providers could help in bringing down the budget for these programs by billions.

Mr. Bridenstine stated:

We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit. But we also want to have numerous providers that are competing against each other on cost and innovation and safety, and really create this virtuous cycle of economic development and capability.

As per reports, the Crew Dragon capsule will be refurbished to fly again in the spring of 2021. NASA has already assigned the astronauts for the mission.

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