Astronauts begin journey home from SpaceX test flight

Joanna Estrada
August 2, 2020

NASA footage showed the capsule drifting slowly away from the ISS in the darkness of space, closing out two months aboard for the first U.S. astronauts to reach the orbiting lab on an American spacecraft in almost a decade.

So far, NASA is proceeding with their landing preparations, but Behnken said that he and Hurley have been working with flight directors on the ground and following the weather forecasts.

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are set to come back to Earth from the International Space Station on Sunday, amid threats of a looming hurricane.

A successful splashdown, Behnken said, would bring US-crew launching capability "full circle". "So we expect nothing different for the splashdown".

The first phase of the astronauts' return journey, undocking, calls for them to enter the Crew Dragon, after which the spaceship should retract the hooks that connect it to the ISS. They are trying to get as much data as they can about this return, because the goal of this mission, the demonstration 2 or demo 2 mission, is to show that this capsule is safe to take people to and from space, not just any people, but civilians.

The vehicle and its two astronaut crew are scheduled to leave the International Space Station (ISS) on 1 August at 7:34 pm EDT (23:34 UTC) ahead of splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday off the coast of Panama City, Florida.

Two recovery ships will be ready to speed to the spacecraft once it lands. There, the crew will emerge from the capsule and receive all necessary medical test and checkouts. The last USA space return by sea was the joint Apollo-Soyuz docking mission, which ended with the Apollo capsule's return in July 1975 northwest of Hawaii.

"We're a little sad to see them go", Cassidy said, "but very excited for what it means to our global space program to add this capability" of commercial crew capsules.

'And they are off!' the United States space agency tweeted, with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken set to splash down Sunday. "And then your vestibular system, your inner ears, play tricks with you". Completion of the test flight will also be a big accomplishment for SpaceX and the entire commercial spaceflight industry. "We're going to do it from space and end up in the water", he added.

Asked later what that "appropriate hardware" was, Hurley said it was bags like sickness bags on airliners, along with towels. "The water landing portion is pretty challenging from a physiological standpoint", he said, particularly after spending a couple months in weightlessness. Flight surgeons will be among the dozens of the recovery team members. "So all those things are in place and other than that, it's just time to go give it a try and and see how it goes".

The Crew Dragon was designed and built by SpaceX under contracts with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, an initiative aimed at ending the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz ferry ships for transportation to and from the space station.

For splashdown, this will mark the third time a Crew Dragon spacecraft has landed in the sea, following SpaceX's Demo-1 and In-Flight Abort test missions - both of which occurred without crew.

The vehicle Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley flew will be refurbished for a Crew-2 Mission in the first half of 2021 with another four astronauts - including Ms Megan McArthur, Mr Behnken's wife, who will serve as the mission's pilot.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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