On Sunday, the SpaceX capsule containing NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico. (Video above.) It was the first time a private company took humans off-world and returned them to Earth and also the first splash-down of American astronauts in 45 years. At a press conference yesterday, Behnken and Hurley recounted their trip home. From Reuters:
"It came alive," Behnken told reporters of the nearly 12-minute thruster burn. "It doesn't sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere."
As the capsule streaked deeper through the sky, atmospheric friction scorched the protective heat shield of the plunging Crew Dragon to 3,500 Fahrenheit (1,927 Celsius), slowing its rate of descent to 350 mph (563 kph).
At that point, the first of two sets of parachutes were deployed, abruptly breaking the capsule's speed further – an interval that felt "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat," Behnken recalled.
"It was a pretty significant jolt," he said.[…]
While bobbing in the water just after splash-down awaiting recovery teams, Hurley said they completed one final test objective for the mission: "making prank satellite phone calls to whoever we can get a hold of."
"There was a real reason for it," Hurley said, in all seriousness, explaining that they needed to prove they could contact mission control using a sat-phone in case the crew landed from space in an unexpected part of the ocean.