Following the Challenger accident, the President's Commission recommended that NASA develop a crew escape system for use during gliding flight. This bailout capability was developed and DDMS was asked to develop a plan to rescue the astronauts following a bailout from the Orbiter. METHODS: The plan developed uses a combination of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, ships, motorized rafts and pararescue specialists. Following a bailout the fixed wing aircraft deploy the motorized rafts and pararescue specialists via parachute to the vicinity of the astronauts. Pararescue specialists then use the rafts to recover the astronauts and proceed to a common point. Then, either helicopters, if available, or ships of opportunity recover the astronauts and pararescue specialists. RESULTS: The plan was validated during two full scale open ocean exercises and has been in place to support all flights since the Challenger accident. CONCLUSIONS: The recovery plan developed meets all the requirements established by NASA for recovery of the astronauts following a contingency that requires them to bailout.