NASA Astronauts Carried Safely Home On SpaceX Rocket NASA and SpaceX are welcoming home two astronauts who splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico after several months on the International Space Station.

Splashdown! SpaceX And NASA Astronauts Make History

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Yesterday, off the coast of Florida, a space capsule carrying two NASA astronauts plunged through blue sky trailing red-orange parachutes and splashed down. It was NASA astronauts' first water landing in more than 40 years, but it wasn't NASA that got them home. The astronauts were returned by a private company, SpaceX. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce was watching.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: SpaceX has been carrying cargo to and from the International SpaceX Station for NASA for years. And now it's shown it can safely transport people. Back in May, SpaceX took two NASA astronauts to the station, and it was time for them to come back home.




UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: As you can see on your screen, we have visual confirmation for splashdown.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: On the live online coverage, you can listen in as SpaceX Mission Control spoke to the astronauts from the company's headquarters in California.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Welcome back to planet Earth. And thanks for flying SpaceX.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: The successful end to this test flight was the last hurdle for SpaceX to prove it can provide a reliable taxi service to the station. And NASA needs that. Since it retired its space shuttles almost a decade ago, it's been relying on Russia to carry astronauts up. Jim Bridenstine is NASA's administrator.


JIM BRIDENSTINE: We are entering a new era of human spaceflight where NASA is no longer the purchaser, owner and operator of all the hardware. We are going to be a customer.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: And SpaceX will have other paying customers. They're already planning a private mission around the moon. Gwynne Shotwell is president of SpaceX.


GWYNNE SHOTWELL: The capsule worked beautifully. The operations worked extremely well. So we certainly feel comfortable that we're on the right path to carry commercial passengers not too long from now.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: But she said the priority is the next flight for NASA. It's scheduled to take up four astronauts in September. Shannon Walker is one of them. She says she and her crewmates watched the splashdown together in Houston.


SHANNON WALKER: To be able to watch our colleagues, our friends, come home safely is always an emotional event. And then just to see how smoothly everything went during their splashdown and their reentry.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: It made them excited to see what it will be like to fly with SpaceX.

Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.

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