The USA had to rely on Russia for trips to the ISS since 2011 – that was expensive and scratched the ego. In May, the US company SpaceX brought astronauts to the ISS. Now they are back on earth.
Washington (AP) – Two US astronauts are back on Earth two months after the first manned launch of the “Crew Dragon” spaceship developed by the private company SpaceX.
Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley landed on Sunday afternoon (local time) with the “Endeavor” capsule in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of the US state of Florida, as live recordings by the US space agency Nasa showed.
Behnken and Hurley launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in late May. It was the first time after almost a nine-year hiatus that astronauts flew to the ISS from the United States and the first time that they had been carried by a private space company. SpaceX had previously only transported cargo to the ISS.
The last time astronauts flew to the ISS was on the Atlantis space shuttle in summer 2011. Thereafter, NASA mothballed its space shuttle fleet for cost reasons and has since been dependent on Russia for flights to the ISS. At around 80 million euros per flight in a Russian Soyuz capsule, this was not only expensive, but also scratched the American ego.
President Donald Trump was all the more pleased after the successful mission: “It is great that NASA astronauts are returning to Earth after a very successful two-month mission. Thanks to all!” The landing in the water was very exciting.
In fact, NASA’s own flights from the U.S. to the ISS had already been announced for 2017 – due to technical problems, funding difficulties and restructuring after Trump was elected as U.S. President, the project was postponed.
Before the return of the astronauts on Sunday, cyclone “Isaias” near Florida had caused some worries: However, the low pressure area should move along the eastern coast of Florida – hundreds of kilometers away from the coast off Pensacola, the targeted landing site. There were actually ideal conditions there at the time of landing.
Meanwhile, the Russian space agency Roskosmos announced that two tourists will fly to the ISS again at the end of next year. They are said to take off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. Their names were not initially mentioned. The space agency had signed a contract with the specialized US company Space Adventures for space tourism. Such trips to the ISS have existed since 2001. The first of seven space tourists to date was the US multimillionaire Dennis Tito.