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Dragon Spotted entering Cape Canaveral

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

SpaceX Dragon Ship Endeavour has returned to Port Canaveral five days after Splashing down.

Go Navigator with the Crew Dragon capsule on deck pulling into port.

Sometimes I close my eyes, and think about what it must have been like in 1969 to witness live on television Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. I see myself on my couch watching a fuzzy television screen holding my breath in anticipation as I wait for the moment to happen. I hear his famous words as he steps down on the lunar surface and lose myself in a wave of emotions, proud to be an American. Sometimes I even imagine what it would be like to have been at Cape Canaveral during the launch, among the thousands of onlookers not blinking as the most powerful rocket of the time (and still) roars to life from LC-39A. I can't help but feel connected to that fateful trip, as they did launch on my birthday, just 21 years earlier. My father also stood at the press site watching Columbia lift off on it's inaugural flight, starting the Shuttle era in 1981, and watched live from his balcony as Challenger blew up. As a child my family would often watch launches from where ever we were in the state at the time. I even attended Space Camp as a kid and saw an old Titan rocket lift off. I remember watching live on news as the last Shuttle touched down, and wondering what was next for our space program. I guess you could say that watching rockets runs in my blood.

Little did i know, nine years later I would be photographing the next crewed launch from American soil. Getting to stand with in half a mile from the very rocket itself, from the very same launch pad that Neil, and Buzz blasted off from. As I stood their snapping photographs my imagination placed the enormous Saturn V right next to that Falcon 9 rocket. Still in my mind I saw them launching side by side making history as I watched astronauts Doug Hurley, and Bob Behnken lift off. No we didn't go to the Moon this trip, but to me these guys are almost the same.

They really are the Neil and Buzz of my time, until we get back to the moon anyways. After all these two are the first men to Launch in a rocket from American Soil since 1972, and the first men ever to launch from American soil in a space ship built entirely by a private company. SpaceX led by Elon Musk has been working for years to make this dream a reality, and they did in spectacular fashion. Crew Dragon before liftoff May 30th

When the capsules came back to Earth during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs They were all far offshore. A few of the first splashed down off the Bahamas, and British Virgin islands, but then most came down in the middle of the Pacific. None of which were easily available for civilians like me to go and witness. Unless you were part of the recovery team lead by the U.S. military odds are you watched on your T.V. at home. The capsules were then lifted onto Aircraft carriers or other naval vessels and taken back to bases far out of view from the public eye. Most Capsules were not ever seen until put on display at various Museums around the country.

Endeavour scorched after it's re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

With the opportunity to see one, let alone the first one in decades, and the first one in history during my time, I could not pass up the chance to see the Crew Dragon return to port. I had no real way of knowing if or when i'd get that chance, so I had to move quick. On August 2nd, DM-2 ended it's mission splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico about 35 miles off of Pensacola, Florida. I knew the recovery ship GO Navigator was at NAS Pensacola before the launch and rumors were abounding that the capsule would be taken back there with the route back to Cape Canaveral still in the air. According to a few sources there were three ways it could be brought back, By land via truck, by air via plane, or by sea via the GO Navigator. Unless it went by sea there would be no way I would have seen it after it came back into NAS Pensacola. So I drove the 12 hour round trip to witness history. under the cover of darkness the capsule came in and I was able to witness that happening.

GO Navigator sailing into Port Canaveral with crew members on deck to wave hello to us

A few days later I heard the capsule was onboard the recovery boat and headed back to Port Canaveral, so five days after splashdown I pulled into Jetty Park to witness the historic moment once again, this time during the early afternoon and making it a lot easier to see and photograph. I stood among friends and fellow launch photographers passing time until they arrived. One thing I love about this group of people is they are so welcoming into their community and have always been nothing but friendly and helpful to me as I've begun my journey into launch photography. The moment finally arrived time slowed down and sped up at the same time. GO Navigator rounded the pier of Jetty Park and never slowed as it sailed into the submarine basin at the port. Few people were making clips for news agencies and online media outlets, giving commentary to the significance of what we were all witnessing, but mostly around me it was just silence, save from the unmistakable noise of camera shutters clicking rapidly as Endeavour passed by. They went in, spun around and docked near a submarine where the capsule will be offloaded for refurbishment and made ready to fly again in the near future, carrying more astronauts to the International Space Station, and becoming the first rocket capsule to be reused for crewed launches.

Just like that, it was over, She was out of sight, but those are moments I will remember and relive for the rest of my life.

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