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 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.

Go deeper: NASA passes the torch

Go deeper

Updated Aug 2, 2020 - Science

Two NASA astronauts return to Earth after historic SpaceX mission

The Crew Dragon capsule ahead of landing in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are safely back on Earth after a historic flight to and from the International Space Station provided by SpaceX.

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