A New SpaceX Video Shows Never-Before-Seen Footage of Its First Astronaut Flight

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SpaceX released a video on Tuesday that chron­i­cles its Demo‑2 mis­sion, the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon space­ship. The mis­sion car­ried NASA astro­nauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to and from the International Space Station, and it went remark­ably smooth­ly – an out­come that felt some­what out-of-keep­ing with this tur­bu­lent year on Earth.

“We hope it brings a little bit of bright­ness to a pretty tough 2020,” Hurley says at the end of the video.

The never-before-broad­cast footage shows Behnken and Hurley dri­ving to the launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After giving thumbs-ups to onlook­ers, the two astro­nauts board the Crew Dragon.

“Three…two…one…ignition, liftoff,” Mission Control says. Then SpaceX’s Falcon‑9 rocket ignites.

Once they enter space, Behnken does a back­flip as a stuffed sequined dinosaur floats around the cap­sule. "Tremor the Apatosaurus" was the latest in a long line of stuffed ani­mals that astro­nauts have brought into space as zero-grav­i­ty indi­ca­tors; when the toys start to float, observers know the ship has entered micro­grav­i­ty.

The video also shows the moments after Crew Dragon docked with the space sta­tion, when the astro­nauts met up with the mem­bers of Expedition 63. The mon­tage ends with their return to Earth: A small white cap­sule shrieks through the atmos­phere, then its para­chutes deploy, slow­ing it to a gentle splash­down in the Gulf of Mexico.

You can watch the full video below:

SpaceX is learning from Demo‑2 to make its next mission smoother

As test mis­sions go, Demo‑2 was remark­ably hassle-free.

“The great­est sur­prise is that this mis­sion was as smooth as it is,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s pres­i­dent and COO, said after Behnken and Hurley's splashdown.

Astronaut Bob Behnken pushes aside a plush dinosaur toy float­ing around the cabin of the Crew Dragon as it reach­es low-Earth orbit, May 30, 2020. NASA TV

Still, the mis­sion wasn’t with­out snags. For instance, once the Crew Dragon landed, its thrusters began emit­ting toxic fumes. Throngs of boats car­ry­ing tourists and onlook­ers also ignored commands to keep their dis­tance.

These prob­lems serve as learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for NASA and SpaceX as they pre­pare for the next crewed mis­sion in their part­ner­ship, Crew‑1. That’s sched­uled to launch at 2:40 a.m. ET on October 31.

From top left: Shannon Walker, Soichi Noguchi, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins pose with SpaceX founder Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Jim Bridenstine/NASA

That crew includes NASA astro­nauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astro­naut Soichi Noguchi. Hopkins is slated to be the mis­sion’s com­man­der, Glover the pilot, and Walker and Noguchi mis­sion spe­cial­ists.

The Demo‑2 astro­nauts have already offered some words of wisdom for that group. Hopkins said Hurley warned him about the shock­ing speed of re-enter­ing the Earth’s atmos­phere.

“His com­ment about entry was, ‘It hap­pens fast,’ ” Hopkins said in a press brief­ing on Tuesday. “From the time the de-orbit sequence starts, the entry sequence starts, to when you touch down is very fast.”

“For me, that means I need to make sure that we, as a crew, are ready for it,” Hopkins added. “When things happen fast, you need to be antic­i­pat­ing.”

But minor issues and sur­pris­es aside, NASA and SpaceX offi­cials are mostly hoping for a repeat of Demo-2’s suc­cess later this fall.

“It will be a great mis­sion if Crew‑1 goes exact­ly the same way,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, said during the Tuesday brief­ing. “I’m count­ing on a beau­ti­ful mis­sion.”

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