After SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday and before NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were out of the capsule, dozens of boats circled the area, creating chaos as recovery crews tried to get to the spacecraft. One had a banner with a “Trump” logo on it.
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) August 2, 2020
The spacecraft completed a two-month mission to the International Space Station, and splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida at 2:48PM ET, where recovery boats were waiting nearby to receive the crew.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 2, 2020
It was a potentially dangerous situation because of the possibility of toxic propellant fumes from the spacecraft’s thrusters. Not to mention the boats could have gotten in the way of an emergency recovery operation.
During a press briefing after the splashdown, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told The Verge’s Loren Grush that they were not anticipating all the boats to be there. “I will tell you it’s a beautiful sunny day, and a lot of boaters were out there and they were certainly intrigued,” he said. “I think all of America was was very anxious to to see the capsule land in the water. But yeah it’s it’s it’s something that we need to do better next time.”
Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said that the Coast Guard helped clear the area before the event, and the boats didn’t interfere with the actual splashdown itself, adding “we have some work to do with SpaceX, we will work together to do a better job for the next splashdown.”