SpaceX Dragon Endeavour Splashes Down Off Florida Coast in Successful Mission Recovery.

The SpaceX crew splashes down on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico following a successful 64 day mission to the International Space Station. It was the first water recovery of a manned spacecraft in 45 years. (Photo: via YouTube/NASA)

First Splashdown and Water Recovery of Spacecraft in 45 Years Ends in Perfect Conditions.

The SpaceX spacecraft Dragon Endeavour with astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley made a successful reentry to earth’s atmosphere and ocean recovery off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida on Sunday Aug. 2, 2020. The spacecraft splashed down on schedule at 14:48 local time, 11:48 Hrs. Pacific Time and 18:48 UTC. Conditions for the splashdown were excellent despite the threat of Tropical Storm Isaias at the opposite side of the Florida peninsula along the Atlantic coast. The spacecraft was returning from the International Space Station after a 64-day test mission.

“We had perfectly clear skies, we were able to see the parachutes far away and follow them to splashdown” said LaunchAmerica reporters on the scene during the live telecast of the reentry and recovery on YouTube.

It was the first parachute splashdown of a spacecraft in 45 years when a joint Apollo-Soyuz test returned to earth in an ocean splashdown recovery. This was also the first time that a space capsule was recovered onboard a ship with the astronauts still onboard. In previous splashdown recoveries, as with the Apollo program, astronauts left the space capsule before the capsule was lifted back on shipboard.

Commentators during the live coverage of the SpaceX splashdown and recovery mentioned a number of unauthorized, civilian boats, as seen in this screen capture, approaching the capsule before it was recovered. “Maybe next time we shouldn’t announce our landing zone” one of the NASA commentators was heard to say during the broadcast. (Image credit: via YouTube/NASA)

Once the space capsule, charred and blackened from the heat of reentry into earth’s atmosphere, was hoisted onto the special support bracket onboard the recovery ship GO Navigator there was a brief delay as traces of Nitrogen Tetra Oxide gas, or “NTO”, were detected around the crew egress hatch. During the inspection of the space capsule for traces of the toxic gas from the spacecraft’s reentry thrusters, technicians in protective gear could be seen taking environmental readings from around the hatch as the recovery ship slowed visibly in the water to facilitate the careful inspection. One of the astronauts inside the capsule told mission controllers by radio, “Take your time. We’re in no hurry” as the crews worked to conduct environmental safety precautions prior to crew egress.

Astronaut Bob Behnken seen leaving the SpaceX capsule onboard the GO Navigator recovery ship during the live broadcast (Photo: via YouTube/NASA)

During the capsule recovery operation, a group of civilian spectators in boats gathered very near the space capsule in the water before it was secured and brought aboard ship. One commentator during the live broadcast was heard to say, “Maybe next time we shouldn’t announce our landing zone”. Members of the official recovery team asked the civilian boats to move away, where they were then seen to form a perimeter of spectator vessels at a safer distance from the space capsule before it was lifted onboard the recovery ship.

Aerial photos of the splash down were taken by a NASA WB-57, built in 1972.

This latest space mission started on May 30th, 2020 and ended today in the 19-hour combined spaceflight, reentry and recovery in the Gulf of Mexico for Behnken and Hurley. The two astronauts were flown by helicopter from the recovery vessel and then by aircraft back to Houston, Texas. The test mission precedes a planned four-person operational space mission planned for September, 2020.



About Tom Demerly 467 Articles
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.