NASA astronauts splashdown to Earth on SpaceX capsule after historic mission

The first astronauts to ride a SpaceX capsule into orbit splashed down back to earth on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

NASA pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken stayed on the space station for two months.

The mission made history as it was the first time a private company, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, successfully sent humans into orbit.

It’s also the first splashdown in 45 years for NASA astronauts.

Hurley was heard saying “it’s truly our honour and privilege,” before radio communications become choppy and cut out.

The test pilots departed the International Space Station on Saturday night, and awoke to a recording of their young children urging them to “rise and shine” and “we can’t wait to see you.”

“Don’t worry, you can sleep in tomorrow,” said Behnken’s 6-year-old son Theo, who was promised a puppy after the flight. “Hurry home so we can go get my dog.”

US President Donald Trump hailed its safe return on Twitter, saying: “Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after very successful two month mission.”

The United States has had to rely on Russia for rides to space since the last Space Shuttle flew in 2011.

Tropical Storm Isaias, which had scuppered Endeavour’s original landing site in the Atlantic, was nearing Florida’s east coast Sunday, hundreds of miles away.

Plans called for the Dragon capsule, named Endeavour by its crew, to go from a screaming orbital speed of 17,500 mph (28,000 kph) to 350 mph (560 kph) during reentry in the atmosphere and finally to 15 mph (24 kph) at splashdown.

The last time NASA astronauts returned from space to water was on July 24, 1975, in the Pacific, the scene of most splashdowns, to end a joint U.S.-Soviet mission known as Apollo-Soyuz.

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to taxi astronauts to and from the space station, under contracts totalling $7 billion.

Both companies launched their crew capsules last year with test dummies.

SpaceX’s Dragon aced all of its objectives, while Boeing’s Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and was almost destroyed because of software errors.

As a result, the first Starliner flight carrying astronauts isn’t expected until next year.

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