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We saw on the SpaceX Demo 2 splashdown livestream that various clearly-non-mission-associated civilian boats appeared to approach the Crew Dragon within 100-300 ft. Has this happened on any previous water landings of spacecraft?

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    $\begingroup$ Apollo splashdowns were far away from the costs, too far for those kind of various clearly-civilian boats. The same was true for Mercury and Gemini splashdowns. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Aug 2 '20 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ From the After the Splashdown news conference (youtu.be/xdvuaiP6IoY): Gwynne Shotwell - "It's a large area to clear" ... "We'll need more Coast Guard assets [and NASA and SpaceX assets on the scene than we had today]" $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato Aug 2 '20 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ @CourageousPotato it's totally clear what you meant! I just couldn't help a quip about the fact that the official recovery ship is no longer a US Navy aircraft carrier... ;-) $\endgroup$ – user2705196 Aug 2 '20 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ Another factor in this is the Go Navigator was / has been visible on public maritime tracking services. That kind of tracking was likely not available to the average mariner 45 years ago. $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato Aug 2 '20 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidTonhofer The US Coast Guard can board any US-flagged vessel in international waters. uscg.mil/readings/Article/1548177/authorities "The Coast Guard may board any vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, whether on the high seas, or on waters over which the United States has jurisdiction, to make inquiries, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures, and arrests for the prevention, detection, and suppression of violations of U.S. laws." $\endgroup$ – ceejayoz Aug 3 '20 at 17:47
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No.

Most of the Apollo missions and some of the Mercury and Gemini missions landed far out in the Pacific Ocean. The rest of the Mercury and Gemini missions, plus Apollo 9, landed far out in the Atlantic Ocean. The mission that came closest to land was Gemini 3, 110 km off Middle Caicos Island, and that was only because it missed the landing target by 84 km.

Also contributing to the lack of crowds is the fact that all prior missions were recovered by aircraft carriers, which tend to discourage civilian onlookers.

Russia/the USSR and China have only ever landed spacecraft on solid surfaces, typically desert or steppe (or one frozen lake), which makes it hard for crowds of civilians on boats to show up.

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  • $\begingroup$ Recovery used not a single ship, see history.nasa.gov/ships.html. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Aug 2 '20 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe, but the primary recovery ship was always an aircraft carrier (Guam, Guadalcanal, New Orleans, and Okinawa carried helicopters rather than airplanes), and the other ships were things like frigates and destroyers to <s>chase civilians off</s> provide security and related tasks. $\endgroup$ – Mark Aug 2 '20 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ What about other countries' space programs? I know that some of the Russian capsules came down on land in Siberia (the occupants famously supplied with pistols and other cold-weather survival gear for protection until they could be picked up), but did they land any in the oceans as well? Has the ESA or China or anyone else done an ocean recovery? $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Aug 3 '20 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman China recovers on land. ESA hasn't flown a human thus far. $\endgroup$ – ceejayoz Aug 3 '20 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ @ceejayoz *hasn’t flown a human on their own rockets. They borrow seats on U.S. (and Russian?) rockets. $\endgroup$ – CourageousPotato Aug 3 '20 at 20:30

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