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NASA Astronauts Return to Houston Following Historic SpaceX Mission

Published Aug 04, 2020 by Maggie Martin

SpaceX mission

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Just a couple of days after successfully splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley spoke about their experience at Johnson Space Center in Houston on August 4. Behnken and Hurley were aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule returning from the International Space Station to complete a test flight that marks a new era in human spaceflight. It's also a milestone for SpaceX, the first private company to send people to the space station. 

"[I'm] glad to be back and it's great to see how excited everyone was for our mission and following along and we hope it brings a bit of brightness to 2020," said Hurley during the August 4 press conference. 

Behnken and Hurley’s return was the first splashdown for American astronauts in 45 years. The last time was at the end of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project when Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald “Deke” Slayton landed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii on July 24, 1975.

“It’s a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together to do something once thought impossible. Partners are key to how we go farther than ever before and take the next steps on daring missions to the Moon and Mars," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

This is SpaceX’s final test flight. According to NASA, it provides data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations.

"The Partnership joins NASA and Johnson Space Center in celebrating the return of Houston astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley," said Susan Davenport, Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Greater Houston Partnership. "Their commercial test flight with NASA’s SpaceX Crew Demo-2 is a remarkable achievement in commercial spaceflight and another historic milestone for Space City. We are proud of the significant role JSC and Houston played in preparing and executing this mission, which included spaceflight training and Mission Control support."

Houston had a significant role in preparing and executing this mission, which included the spaceflight training and Mission Control support and direction at Johnson Space Center. Behnken and Hurley also join a long list of Houstonians who've traveled to space. In fact, for the past 20 years, there has always been a Houstonian in space. 

SpaceX maintains a Houston office near Johnson Space Center and a section of the JSC floor is dedicated to the company with a Dragon capsule mockup, which Behnken and Hurley used for training purposes. 

The mission also marks another significant milestone for Houston as a global leader in aerospace and commercial spaceflight. 

More than 500 aerospace and aviation-related firms and institutions are within the greater Houston region. Houston also has 10 of the 50 largest aerospace manufacturing companies in the country.  The metro's total trade in aircraft, spacecraft and parts totaled $2.9 billion in 2019, making it Houston's 11 largest internationally traded commodity. Houston is home to 350 companies involved in aircraft or space vehicle manufacturing, research and technology or other air transportation support activities. 

Houston is also home to Houston Spaceport, an FAA-licensed, urban commercial spaceport at Ellington Airport offering 53,000 square feet of office and lab space, including technology incubator space and large-scale hardware production facilities. The aim is to foster and accelerate key aerospace engineering activities, including space vehicle assembly, astronaut training and development, and space tourism. The spaceport also serves as a future launch and landing site for suborbital, reusable launch vehicles. 

"With the global space industry projected to grow to a trillion-dollar economy by 2040, we believe Houston will continue to play a leading role in the emerging commercial realm of space flight," said Susan Davenport. "The Partnership is working to bring more companies to this region to build a world-leading commercial space ecosystem in Houston, as well as capitalize on the synergy they will find with NASA and existing aerospace organizations."

Watch NASA's video of SpaceX's Crew Dragon return to Earth and splashdown. Learn more about aerospace and aviation in the greater Houston region. 

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