Space X splashdown – Elon Musk says 'I'm not religious, but I prayed for this one' as astronauts return to Earth

ELON Musk has admitted to praying for a safe landing for the Nasa astronauts his SpaceX company brought back to Earth.

The billionaire CEO said: "I'm not religious, but I prayed for this one."

Musk was clearly emotional after the historic splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.

He greeted astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken at a small masked gathering in Houston.

They'd been sent on a two month mission to the International Space Station back in May.

Splashdown happened at 2:48pm ET on Sunday (18:48 GMT).

There had been concerns a tropical storm would delay the mission or cause major problems but luckily things went to plan.

It was the first water landing involving Nasa since 1975.

The whole mission was actually the first time US astronauts had been launched from US soil in almost a decade.

Musk said: "This day heralds a new age of space exploration."

And added: "I think my entire adrenaline just dumped. These are difficult times, there's not that much good news…No matter where you are on planet Earth, this is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day."

He'd had to rush to Houston to greet the astronauts from the SpaceX headquarters in California.

For the past nine years US astronauts had been travelling on Russian Soyuz rockets for a charge of around $80million (£61million) per seat.

Astronauts Behnken and Hurley were wheeled out of the Crew Dragon capsule on stretchers, which is a normal procedure.

Their spacecraft went from 17,500mph in orbit to 350mph during re-entry, and finally to 15mph as it parachuted into the water.

It was exposed to a peak temperature of 1,900C (3,500F) during the descent.

Footage was shared to Nasa's Twitter page of their "recovery teams approaching the @SpaceX Dragon capsule and gathering the parachutes in the water."

At 4pm ET, both astronauts successfully left the hatch as a recovery team assisted them.

Both Behnken and Hurley gave a thumbs up.

"Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX," said controllers at SpaceX headquarters.

"It was truly our honor and privilege," replied Hurley.

After medical checks by a crew who had been in strict quarantine, they were flown by helicopter to Pensacola, then on to Houston.

What is SpaceX?

Here's what you need to know…

SpaceX was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk who still has part ownership of the company with 54 per cent equity and 78 per cent voting control.

SpaceX is a private American aerospace manufacturer that is based in California.

It was founded in 2002 with the goal to build affordable rockets and enable the colonisation of Mars.

The manufacturer also aimed to reduce space transportation costs.

Since its creation, the firm has gained fame primarily as a pioneering rocket firm.

In 2008 it launched the first privately-funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit and later became the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun.

The company has grown dramatically over its lifespan, from 160 employees in November 2005 to around 7,000 as of November 2019.

As of March 2018, SpaceX had over 100 launches on its manifest representing about $12billion (£9.24billion) in contract revenue.

In other space news, scientists have traced mysterious radio signals detected on Earth to a dead star within our Milky Way galaxy.

Elon Musk's Starlink satellites have come under scrutiny again after ruining a stargazer's photo of Comet Neowise.

And, Musk has said SpaceX’s mission to get man on Mars is now the company’s “top priority”.

Did you watch the astronauts landing? Let us know in the comments…

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