Two NASA astronauts aboard the SpaceX capsule completed a successful journey back from the International Space Station on Sunday, landing safely in the Gulf of Mexico to complete a historic two-month mission.
The mission by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft marked the first time astronauts used the Gulf as a landing site as well as the first time a private company, billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX, launched astronauts into orbit.
“Today we really made history. We are entering a new era of human spaceflight,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said after the successful splashdown.
SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell expressed hope that the “extraordinary mission” will be the start of a new era of frequent space travel, including eventually to Mars.
“This is really just the beginning,” Shotwell said. “We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low Earth orbit, then onto the moon and then ultimately onto Mars.”
The mission is also the first launch of American astronauts into space since 2011, and the first water landing by NASA astronauts since 1975. The two astronauts parachuted into the water at 15 miles per hour just before 3 p.m. EST on Sunday.
The astronauts received a lighthearted message from mission control as their journey came to a close: “On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to planet Earth. Thank you for flying SpaceX.”
“You should take a moment to just cherish this day, especially given all the things that have happened this year,” Hurley told NASA and SpaceX after the successful landing.