NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned home from the International Space Station in high spirits.
When they splashed down in the ocean near Pensacola, Florida, Sunday (Aug. 2), SpaceX's Demo-2 duo had to wait inside the Endeavour spacecraft for the recovery crew to fish them out. Both were presumably bored, so they decided to make a few calls.
Hurley revealed during a post-splashdown ceremony that while he and Behnken were waiting inside the spacecraft, they decided to have some fun and make a few calls. On Twitter, NASA flight director Anthony Vareha revealed he received one of those calls: "I received one of these calls at the flight director console. It started with an opening line like 'Hi, it's Doug and Bob, and we're in the ocean.' I think my response was, 'Yeah, I can see that.'"
Jokes aside, Demo-2 was one serious mission, and Behnken and Hurley took care of business during their 2-month stay in space. Considered a huge success, SpaceX is now officially on course to fly its first operational crewed mission to the space station in late September, that is, if analyses of Demo-2 data reveal no red flags.
SpaceX's first official mission with NASA will be called Crew-1, which will be followed by at least five more to and from the ISS under a $2.6 billion contract. Crew-1 is made up of four astronauts: NASA's Shannon Walker, Vicor Glover, and Michael Hopkins, and JAXA's Soichi Noguchi.
SpaceX's second flight, Crew-2, is scheduled for a 2021 launch. It will use the same capsule that flew on Demo-2, the Hurley, and Behnken christened Endeavour.
SpaceX's Demo-2 mission started on May 30 when a Falcon 9 rocket launched NASA astronauts to the ISS. The event was the first time in nearly a decade that a crewed orbital launch happened in the U.S. since the space shuttle retired in 2011. When the NASA space shuttle program ceased operations, the space agency resorted to using Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to ferry its astronauts to and from the ISS. But with the success of the Demo-2 mission, SpaceX will be able to provide that service for NASA.
Aside from SpaceX, NASA has also awarded Boeing a multi-billion dollar contract to finish work on spaceflight systems as well. Its Starliner crew capsule made its orbital uncrewed debut in December, but the craft failed to reach the orbiting laboratory due to a series of glitches and software issues.