Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Two NASA astronauts who returned from space to a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday praised the SpaceX Dragon capsule's performance in their first public comments since the mission.
"We're so proud of the SpaceX and NASA teams to get Dragon through its first crewed flight flawlessly," Doug Hurley said.
"I'm almost kind of speechless, as far as how well the vehicle did and how, how well the mission went and all the things we did on board [the International Space Station]."
Hurley and Bob Benken spent 64 days in space after lifting off May 30 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their assessment of the trip is important because the flight was the last test of the Crew Dragon capsule before NASA considers certifying it for regular flights.
The space agency still must pore over data from the flight, which could take weeks. If all goes well, the first regular SpaceX mission will be scheduled for as early as late September.
On Tuesday, back in Houston, Hurley and Behnken described a dynamic, violent reentry into the atmosphere, but praised the spacecraft.
"Dragon really came alive," Behnken said. "It started to fire its thrusters and keep us pointed in the right direction. The thrusters were firing almost continuously. It doesn't sound like a machine. It sounds like an animal."
He said separation of the trunk -- a disposable storage chamber -- from the capsule and the firing of parachutes were "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat -- you know, just a crack!"
But Behnken said SpaceX had prepared them for those milestones, showing them video matched with audio of the uncrewed test flight of the Dragon in March 2019.
He said he would advise future crews on the Dragon to watch that video, including his wife, Megan McArthur, who is scheduled to ride in the same seat he did later this year.
The Crew Dragon mission is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, established in 2010, which works with Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing to develop a transportation systems to the space station.
Boeing plans a second demonstration flight of its Starliner capsule this fall after the first one failed to achieve a high enough orbit to reach the space station.