SpaceX Crew Dragon Returning Home, Undocking from ISS Begins

Leonardo Di Caprio arriving at the Oscars

Leonardo Di Caprio arriving at the Oscars

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed into the water off Pensacola, Florida at 2:48 pm (1848 GMT), trailed by its four main parachutes.

The landing also marked the final test for SpaceX as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, an initiative created to build space taxis for NASA that will transport its astronauts to and from the space station.

"We're both super, super proud having been just a small part of the team that accomplished bringing those spaceflights back to the Florida coast and bringing that capability back to America", astronaut Behnken said.

Before the recovery ship hoisted the capsule out of the water and prepared to open the capsule's hatch, a flotilla of small private boats piloted by onlookers also converged around the bobbing capsule.

"Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after a very successful two-month mission", President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.

"Thank you for doing the most hard parts and the most important parts of human spaceflight - getting us into orbit and bringing us home safely", Behnken said shortly before he was helped out of the capsule. The astronauts are also returning an American flag that was brought to the station on the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, in 2011.

Nasa and SpaceX - monitoring the crew's return from Houston, Texas and SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California - had last week ruled out splashdown options in the Atlantic owing to Tropical Storm Isaias, expected to churn alongside Florida's east coast as a hurricane in the coming days. "Endeavour" is a spaceship built and operated by SpaceX with about $2.7 billion in government funding.

The goal of NASA's Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station.

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First, it jettisoned its "trunk" that contains its power, heat and other systems, which burned up in the atmosphere.

Endeavour then fired its thrusters to maneuver itself into the proper orbit and trajectory for splashdown.

During re-entry to Earth's atmosphere, the capsule's outer shell withstood temperatures as high as 1,900 degrees while Behnken and Hurley, strapped inside the cabin, experienced 29C temperatures.

It then deployed parachutes to slow its speed from 17,500mph to around 15mph before splashing down. And Crew Dragon was flown on an uncrewed test mission previous year.

During a farewell ceremony on the station, Behnken said that "the hardest part was getting us launched".

Addressing his son and Hurley's son, he held up a toy dinosaur that the children chose to send on the mission and said: "Tremor The Apatosaurus is headed home soon and he'll be with your dads". The astronauts launched for the space station on May 30 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket made by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

The Crew Dragon performed a series of manoeuvres to lower its orbit and get closer to the splashdown site.

The recovery team had to clear the private vessels from the area before it could retrieve the spacecraft, since the crowd could have posed a hazard to Behnken and Hurley.

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