MORE NEWS: AS­TRO­NAUTS SPLASH DOWN SAFELY; AC­TOR WIL­FORD BRIM­LEY DIES

Cap­sule car­ry­ing 2 as­tro­nauts para­chutes into Gulf of Mex­ico

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MARCIA DUNN AP Aero­space Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two NASA as­tro­nauts re­turned to Earth on Sun­day in a dra­matic, retro-style splash­down, their cap­sule parachut­ing into the Gulf of Mex­ico about 40 miles off the coast of Pen­sacola, Florida, to close out an un­prece­dented test flight by Elon Musk’s SpaceX com­pany.

It was the first splash­down by U.S. as­tro­nauts in 45 years, with the first com­mer­cially built and op­er­ated space­craft to carry peo­ple to and from or­bit. The re­turn clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as next month and pos­si­ble tourist flights next year.

Test pi­lots Doug Hur­ley and Bob Behnken ar­rived back on Earth in their SpaceX Dragon cap­sule named En­deav­our, less than a day af­ter de­part­ing the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion and two months af­ter blast­ing off from Florida.

“It’s a lit­tle bit over­whelm­ing to see ev­ery­body here con­sid­er­ing the things that have gone on the last few months since we’ve been off planet,” Hur­ley said af­ter ar­riv­ing back home in Hous­ton Sun­day.

Musk had rushed to Hous­ton to wel­come the as­tro­nauts.

“I’m not very re­li­gious, but I prayed for this one,” he said.

CORY HUS­TON/ NASA VIA AP The SpaceX cap­sule splashes down Sun­day in the Gulf of Mex­ico.

BILL IN­GALLS/NASA VIA AP

NASA astro­naut Robert Behnken gives a thumbs up in Pen­sacola, Florida, on Sun­day.

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