'Space dad' jokes: NASA astronauts made prank calls after historic SpaceX splashdown

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned from orbit with their senses of humor intact.

The duo splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida, Sunday (Aug. 2), wrapping up SpaceX's historic Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Behnken and Hurley had a bit of time to kill as they waited for recovery crews to fish out and inspect their Crew Dragon capsule, so they decided to make a few calls. 

"Five hours ago, we were in a spaceship, bobbing around, making prank satellite phone calls to whoever we could get a hold of. Which was kind of fun, by the way," Hurley said during a welcome-home ceremony in Houston, where NASA's astronaut corps is based.

Full coverage: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronaut test flight

He was being serious about making those jokey calls; we have outside confirmation.

"I received one of these calls at the flight director console. It started with an opening line like 'Hi, it's Doug and Bob, and we're in the ocean.' I think my response was, 'Yeah, I can see that,'" NASA flight director Anthony Vareha said via Twitter.

Behnken's wife, fellow NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, got a call from the newly returned Crew Dragon as well.

"On my phone it said 'Spam Risk.' Glad I answered anyway!" McArthur tweeted yesterday

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Demo-2 itself was no joke, of course, and Behnken and Hurley took care of business during their nine weeks in space. The successful completion of that landmark test flight keeps SpaceX on course to fly its first operational crewed mission to the space station in late September, provided analyses of Demo-2 data reveal no red flags.

That coming mission, known as Crew-1, will be the first of at least six that SpaceX will fly to and from the orbiting lab under a $2.6 billion NASA contract. Crew-1 will feature four astronauts: NASA's Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan's Soichi Noguchi. 

The second contracted flight, Crew-2, is targeted to launch in spring 2021. It will use the same capsule that flew on Demo-2, which Hurley and Behnken dubbed Endeavour. And there's another connection to the test flight as well: McArthur is one of the four Crew-2 astronauts. (The other three are NASA's Shane Kimbrough, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet.)

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.