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Splashdown! Local expert explains how astronauts Hurley and Behnken made it safely back to earth

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(WBNG) -- Apalachin native and astronaut Doug Hurley and fellow astronaut Bob Behnken are back on planet Earth this evening.

They splashed down off the coast of Florida just before 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon after more than two months in space aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. It was the first time in more than a decade that astronauts were launched into space from U.S. soil.

Drew Deskur is the executive director of the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center in Vestal. He said when the astronauts first re-entered the atmosphere, they experienced a ballistic reentry.

But thanks to aerospace engineering both were safe inside the spacecraft.

"I think it's certainly jarring," he told 12 News just before the splashdown. "The heat shield will be be protecting Bob and Doug on the inside, and it'll create a plasma shield so for about six minutes there'll be no communication between crew dragon and ground."

He said drogue parachutes then slow the aircraft as it begins its final descent toward the surface.

"As it's finally splashing down into the water they're supposedly only going to be going about 15 miles per hour so It should be a relatively comfortable landing," he said.

Then recovery ships approach the spacecraft in order to return it's occupants safely to shore.

"The spacecraft will actually be lifted onto the deck of one of the recovery ships, and then Doug and Bob will come out of the capsule right onto the deck of the recovery ship," he said.

After splashdown, the Deskur said the pair likely needed some time to get used to being back on land.

"Having been in Space for about two months, their bodies are probably more acclimated to space than they are Earth," he said.

You can watch Kopernik's live stream of the splashdown here.

Jack Arpey

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