It’s been exactly a year since SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 mission saw aircrew launches and landings return to US soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
The mission also marked the first use by an astronaut of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which transported NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station for a two-month stay. And that’s not all, because it was also the first time that NASA used an American-built and commercially operated spacecraft for human spaceflight.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft began the Demo-2 mission atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Fla. On May 30, 2020.
& mdash; SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
While aboard the ISS, Hurley and Behnken worked on various science experiments, while Behnken participated in four spacewalks with fellow American astronaut Chris Cassidy. Hurley and Behnken also participated in events with media and returning students, answering questions about their journey aboard the Crew Dragon, as well as life on the space station.
After 64 days aboard the orbiting outpost, attention has turned to the return journey, with the Crew Dragon about to embark on its very first crewed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, a procedure that puts a tremendous amount of stress and strain on a space capsule. Sitting inside Crew Dragon, Hurley and Behnken began their return journey on August 1, 2020, crashing into the Gulf of Mexico the next day. Shortly after the safe return of the astronauts, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk praised the mission’s success, saying it marked “a new era of space exploration” that will see commercially constructed technology used in it. future crewed trips to the Moon, Mars and even beyond.
Speaking later of returning home aboard the Crew Dragon, Behnken said the spacecraft “really came alive” and sounded “like an animal” as the vehicle felt all the force to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
“As we went down into the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously… it doesn’t look like a machine, it looks like an animal going through the atmosphere with all the puffs that take place from the thrusters and the atmosphere,” Behnken said.
Enjoy SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 mission again with this comprehensive collection of images that tell its story from launch to projection.
Since last year’s Demo-2 mission, SpaceX has used its Crew Dragon capsule two more times, sending four astronauts to the space station on each of the flights. Crew-1 astronauts are already back, while Crew-2 astronauts are currently on board the ISS after arriving in April.