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Two NASA astronauts have successfully been brought back to Earth on SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship.
Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed! Welcome back to Earth, @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug! pic.twitter.com/0vAS3CcK9P
- SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 2, 2020
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken left the International Space Station to travel home on a new type of spacecraft. Their capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico - making it the first US water landing since the final Apollo moon mission 45 years ago.
As they arrived, Hurley was heard saying: "It's truly our honour and privilege."
SpaceX mission control replied with: "On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX."
The new Crew Dragon spaceship was launched into the cosmos at the end of May on a Falcon 9 rocket.
.@AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug have been lifted out of the water and are aboard the Go Navigator. Welcome home. #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/gjqUcLMy8X
- NASA (@NASA) August 2, 2020
The mission marks a new era for spaceflight and has showcased the astronaut 'taxi service' that will be used by NASA in the future. The space agency will outsource operations like this, which will save billions of dollars, which can be redirected into getting people to Mars and the Moon.
Previously, NASA did everything in-house, however it has since shifted its philosophy.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "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."
Inside the mission control room, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sat next to the company's president, Gwynne Shotwell, who is also chief operating officer and was one of the company's first employees.
The re-entry into Earth is a bit different to previous methods.
Former NASA astronaut Garret Reisman, who also helped design the Crew Dragon, said the spacecraft is designed different, making it much more intense.
"The capsule comes in steeper and [will] decelerate much more rapidly," he said.
You certainly wouldn't want to be on the outside of the spacecraft during that time, with the exterior experiencing temperatures of more than 1,648C degrees.
Astronaut Bob Behnken said it's a wild time, but it's also beautiful to watch from the inside.
"You actually see the light from the atmosphere as it heats up the external portions of the spacecraft," he said.
"You see some orange lights flickering the plasma as it kinda goes past the windows...The vehicle's going through something pretty severe - and we'll be hoping it takes care of us as it takes us through entry."
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