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Crew Dragon Demo-2 Astronauts Honored

Medals for Honor for Honorable Mettle

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken were awarded Congressional Space Medals of Honor during an afternoon ceremony on Tuesday, 31 January 2023. Hurley and Behnken were honored for the bravery they demonstrated during NASA’s May 2020 SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) to the International Space Station..

Crew Dragon Demo-2 was the first crewed test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon—a class of partially reusable spacecraft developed primarily for flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS). To date, two variants of Crew Dragon have been developed: Crew Dragon, a vehicle capable of ferrying four crew-members, and Cargo Dragon, an updated iteration of the original Dragon 1 that supplies cargo to the ISS under a NASA Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract. The Crew Dragon spacecraft consist of a reusable capsule section that returns to Earth via oceanic splashdown, and an expendable trunk module. The vehicle launches atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket booster.

Dubbed Endeavor, the Crew Dragon spacecraft by which Hurley and Behnken were borne spaceward launched on 30 May 2020. The mission occasioned the first crewed orbital spaceflight launched from the United States since 2011, and the first ever such flight operated by a commercial provider. What’s more, Demo-2 was the first two-person orbital spaceflight launched from the United States since 1982’s STS-4—the final test flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Demo-2 completed the validation of crewed spaceflight operations utilizing SpaceX hardware, and secured human-rating certification for the Crew Dragon spacecraft—including astronaut testing of its capabilities in orbit.

Nineteen-hours after launching from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, Endeavor—at 14:16 UTC on 31 May 2020—soft-docked with the International Space Station. Eleven-minutes after soft-capture, a dozen mechanical hooks closed, thereby completing hard-capture.

Hurley and Behnken boarded the space station, and for the following 62-days worked alongside the crew of Expedition 63—the 63rd long-duration mission to the ISS. In all, Endeavor remained docked to the ISS for 62-days, nine-hours, and eight-minutes—undocking at 23:35 UTC on 01 August 2020.

At 18:48:06 UTC on 02 August 2020—sixty-three-days, 23-hours, 25-minutes and 21-seconds post launch—Endeavor splashed down off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, marking the first splashdown of NASA astronauts in 45 years, and the first ever splashdown of a crewed spacecraft in the Gulf of Mexico.

Endeavor was subsequently recovered by the quick transport vessel GO (Guidance Offshore) Navigator, which transported Hurley and Behnken safely ashore, where renown and reward awaited them in equal and ample measure.



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