NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley returned home this afternoon from the International Space Station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

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The Crew Dragon splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico just after 2:45 pm.

SpaceX personnel cheered loudly from inside mission control at SpaceX's Hawthorne, California headquarters. The GO Navigator rescue ship then moved in to haul the Crew Dragon spacecraft out of the water and allow Behnken and Hurley to disembark.

The first words from mission control to the astronauts were a humorous welcome home: "Thank you for flying SpaceX."

The astronauts had a cheerful message for their flight doctors waiting to check them out as well:

"Let them know we're feeling good."

The Crew Dragon recovery team detected small amounts of NTO, or nitrogen tetroxide, a potentially toxic propellant used in the capsule's onboard rocket engines which caused a delay in the astronauts disembarking from the spacecraft.

The levels weren't high enough to be dangerous, according to SpaceX and NASA officials, but there is always an effort to air on the side of caution. After some measurements, the air inside the spacecraft was determined as clean.

After a brief hangup caused by wayward fumes given off by propellant, the Crew Dragon opened its hatch, and Behnken and Hurley took their first steps into Earth's gravity after spending two months in the zero-G environment of space.

Behnken waved to the cameras before heading to his medical check-up. Hurley followed shortly after and flashed a thumb's up.

The astronauts are now onboard SpaceX's GO Navigator recovery vessel and will soon take a helicopter flight back to terra firma.


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