Houston, we have splashdown!

Houston, we have splashdown!

by ACROBOTIC Industries

The successful splashdown of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which occurred at 2:48 pm EDT outside of Pensacola, FL, marked the conclusion of its final test prior to its certification by NASA for routine missions transporting astronauts to and from the station. A huge win for the continued advancement of private spaceflight, led by SpaceX. "This is the next era for spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in an appearance on NASA TV a couple hours before splashdown.

With this mission completed safely, NASA plans to use commercial vehicles for transporting astronauts to and from the station. The first operational mission, Crew-1, is scheduled for launch no earlier than late September, 2020, carrying four astronauts, three from NASA and one from the Japanese space agency JAXA.

Boats crash NASA's splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico

No major incidents were observed during the reentry, splashdown, and recovery. Recovery boats were on the scene shortly after splashdown, and the spacecraft was onboard the main recovery ship about 30 minutes after. However, something worth noting was the presence of private boats, which swarmed the space capsule—apparently hoping for a closer look—few instants after splashdown. "That was not what we were anticipating," Bridenstine said in a briefing. "After they landed, the boats just came in. We need to do a better job next time for sure."

The only other glitch occurred while opening of the Crew Dragon hatch, once the spacecraft was on board the recovery ship. High levels of the propellant used by the spacecraft’s thrusters were detected, which made necessary a purge of the propulsion system. This led to a 45-minute delay in opening the hatch while the levels reached a safe enough threshold.

All in all, a great day for crewed spaceflight, and perhaps a motivator for Congress to fully fund NASA's FY 2021 budget (which, as of July 31st, is short by $2.6 billion) as suggested by Bridenstine at the end of the post-splashdown briefing.

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