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Decades before SpaceX, these splashdowns made waves

On August 2, 2020, Space X’s Crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

This was America’s first ocean landing in 45 years.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

Here are 10 photos of splashdowns before SpaceX.

Liberty Bell 7 was the US’s 2nd crewed spacecraft. Unfortunately, its July 21, 1961 landing didn’t go as planned. The spacecraft’s hatch opened prematurely and gallons of water entered.

The spacecraft proved to be too heavy to lift out of the water, and it sank. Luckily, astronaut Virgil I. Grissom escaped. In 1999, Liberty Bell 7 was recovered from 15,00 below the surface of the Atlantic.

View of the recovery of the Mercury-Atlas 4 spacecraft on September 13, 1961.

Overhead view of the Gemini 4 spacecraft on June 7, 1965, showing the yellow flotation collar used to stabilize the spacecraft. A crewmember is being hoisted aboard a U.S. Navy helicopter during recovery operations following the mission.


Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., command pilot of the Gemini V spacecraft, is hoisted into a recovery helicopter after the craft's eight-day mission on August 29, 1965.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and David R. Scott sit with their spacecraft hatches open while awaiting the arrival of the recovery ship, the USS Leonard F. Mason, after the successful completion of their Gemini 8 mission, on March 17, 1966.

Apollo 11’s crew in a life raft near after climbing out of the Columbia crew capsule on July 24, 1969, just days after being the first humans to walk on the Moon.

Crew men aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, the prime recovery ship for the Apollo 13 mission, hoist the Command Module aboard ship on April 17, 1970.

Apollo 13 Astronaut John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot, is lifted aboard a helicopter in a Billy Pugh helicopter rescue net while astronaut James A. Lovell Jr., commander, awaits his turn.

The Apollo 15 Command Module, with astronauts aboard, safely touches down on August 7, 1971, in the mid-Pacific Ocean.

The Apollo 17 spacecraft glided to a safe splashdown December 19, 1972, 350 miles southeast of American Samoa.