Recreational boaters got up close and personal to the SpaceX capsule carrying two US astronauts after it landed in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday — catching NASA officials off guard.
“That was not what we were anticipating,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a press conference addressing the private boaters who greeted the craft with spacemen Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard.
Several boats with multiple passengers, including one flying a Trump campaign flag, could be seen on a livestream that captured the historic voyage surrounding the floating capsule after it safely touched down.
Bridenstine noted that the US Coast Guard cleared a landing for the craft and it wasn’t until after splashing down that the spectators crept close.
“We wanted to make sure that there was a clearing for them to land. The Coast Guard did an excellent job of ensuring that,” said Bridenstine.
“Then of course, after they landed the boats just came in. We need to do a better job next time for sure,” he said.
Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said 10-natural miles were cleared in advance of the capsule’s return.
The astronauts made it back to earth after spending two months inside the International Space Station.
The journey marked the first ever commercial space mission and Sunday was NASA’s first water landing since 1975.