MORE NEWS: ASTRONAUTS SPLASH DOWN SAFELY; ACTOR WILFORD BRIMLEY DIES
Capsule carrying 2 astronauts parachutes into Gulf of Mexico
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.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken gives a thumbs up in Pensacola, Florida, on Sunday.