The test mission, undertaken with NASA, took astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This was the first time a private company had taken humans into space.
The two men landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. local time. As the capsule floated over a calm ocean, they received a radio greeting: “Welcome to planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX ”.
It was the first water landing for a US manned shuttle since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.
“Today we have written a page of history,” said NASA boss Jim Bridenstine. He said he wanted to repeat this type of public-private partnership for the return to the moon, with the Artemis program, and one day to go to Mars.
The @SpaceX #CrewDragon with @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug aboard splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: @nasahqphoto/@ingallsimages https://t.co/KoclWhhV5m pic.twitter.com/dZed5vNv8q
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) August 3, 2020
Elon Musk’s private space company hopes to pass a test by sending three American astronauts to the ISS for the first fully commercial space flight before the end of September, with NASA paying a fee for each seat. The company has also announced a second mission which will take place early next year.
Sunday’s landing marks the culmination of a plan first developed ten years ago. The United States decided to replace the space shuttle with a new type of space program whereby private companies would be paid a fixed price to develop spacecraft for human flight, with future missions sold on a commercial basis.