SpaceX has a plan to keep boats away from its next spaceship landing

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  • SpaceX and NASA are set to launch four astronauts on the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship on October 31.
  • When the Crew Dragon splashed down at the end of its first crewed mission, boats of onlookers surrounded the capsule.
  • That could have endangered the astronauts inside and exposed the boaters to toxic fumes.
  • For the next mission, SpaceX and NASA are working with the US Coast Guard to bring in more enforcement boats and hold a 10-mile “keep-out zone” around the landing site.
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As SpaceX prepares to launch its second astronaut crew, the company has made a plan to keep curious boaters away when its spaceship lands back on Earth.

SpaceX’s first launch for NASA rocketed astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into Earth’s orbit aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship. They stayed on the International Space Station for two months, then climbed back into the capsule and weathered a fiery plummet into the Gulf of Mexico in August.

The mission was a demo, and each step went according to plan — until the end. Once the toasted capsule was bobbing in the ocean, NASA and SpaceX encountered a swarm of onlooker boats surrounding the spaceship. Even Behnken and Hurley’s colleagues on the space station could see the beeline headed for the ocean landing site.

It was an unexpected obstacle, and some of the spectators passed alarmingly close to the capsule (including one flying a Trump flag).

“That just can’t happen like it did before,” Hurley said of the boaters in a press conference a few days after his return. 

When bystander vessels get that close to a spaceship that has just plowed through Earth’s atmosphere, it can be dangerous for both the astronauts and the boaters. That’s because the capsule was shrouded in