Aug 1, 2020 - Science

NASA astronauts head home after historic spaceflight

The Crew Dragon leaving the International Space Station

The Crew Dragon spacecraft as it leaves the International Space Station. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are heading back to Earth from the International Space Station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Why it matters: Behnken and Hurley's return will mark the end of SpaceX's first crewed mission to the station ā€” and the first mission in which American astronauts launched from U.S. soil in nine years.

Details: Hurley and Behnken undocked from the space station about 7:35 p.m. ET on Saturday. If all goes according to plan, the two astronauts should be back on Earth tomorrow.

  • The Crew Dragon is expected to splash down off the Florida coast on Sunday at 2:42 p.m. ET.

Between the lines: Coming back home from space is always a pretty intense experience, but Behnken and Hurley are prepared for it.

  • Both are veteran astronauts who flew missions aboard the space shuttle.
  • And just in case they feel a little queasy while reentering the atmosphere and coming down for a landing, the Crew Dragon comes equipped with bags and towels.
  • "It wouldn't be the first time that that's happened in a space vehicle," Hurley said during a press briefing ahead of undocking.

The big picture: Behnken and Hurley's mission and those that follow are ushering in a new era of spaceflight for NASA, one marked by partnerships with commercial companies that serve not only the government, but other private entities.

  • Along with SpaceX, NASA also has a contract with Boeing to eventually fly people to the space station, and the agency is making plans to allow private individuals to launch to the station for tourist flights.

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