It’s exactly a year since SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 mission that saw crewed launches and landings return to U.S. soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
The mission also marked the first astronaut use of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which carried NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station for a two-month stay. And that’s not all, as this was also the first time for NASA to use a commercially built and operated American spacecraft for human spaceflight.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft began the Demo-2 mission atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 30, 2020.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
During their time aboard the ISS, Hurley and Behnken worked on various scientific experiments, while Behnken participated in four spacewalks with fellow American astronaut Chris Cassidy. Both Hurley and Behnken also took part in events with media outlets and students back on Earth, answering questions about their trip up on the Crew Dragon, as well as about life on the space station.
After 64 days aboard the orbiting outpost, attention switched to the return journey, with the Crew Dragon about to embark on its first-ever crewed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, a procedure that puts huge stresses and strains on a space capsule. Seated inside Crew Dragon, Hurley and Behnken began their trip home on August 1, 2020, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico the following day. A short time after the astronauts’ safe return, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hailed the mission a success, saying it marked “a new age of space exploration” that will see commercially built technology used in future crewed voyages to the moon, Mars, and even beyond.
Speaking later about the ride home aboard the Crew Dragon, Behnken said the spacecraft “really came alive” and sounded “like an animal” as the vehicle felt the full force of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
“As we descended through the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously … it doesn’t sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmosphere,” Behnken said.
Enjoy SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 mission all over again with this comprehensive collection of images that tells its story from launch to splashdown.
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. The Crew-1 astronauts have already returned, while the Crew-2 astronauts are currently aboard the ISS after arriving there in April.