SpaceX craft departs from ISS for Earth

Kennedy Space Center  SpaceX via Flickr An illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon orbiting Earth. Kennedy Space Center  SpaceX via Flickr

NASA's Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken bid farewell to the three men left behind as their SpaceX Dragon capsule undocked and headed toward a Sunday afternoon descent by parachute into the Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX has brought its capsule back to Earth from space earlier too, but that was during an uncrewed test flight past year in March.

The return of the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry crew to the ISS will conclude the DEMO-2 test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

After a review of the latest forecast for the waters off the coast of Florida, and taking into account the seven possible splashdown locations, it has been made a decision to proceed with plans to bring astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley back to earth aboard the SpaceX Endeavor Crew Dragon this weekend, now targeting for the departure to occur at 7:34 p.m. EDT, Saturday, Aug. 1, with splashdown estimated at 2:42 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 2.

If certified, the next Crew Dragon capsule will launch NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, to the space station in late September.

"It's been a great two months, and we appreciate all you've done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight", Hurley told the remaining USA station crew member Chris Cassidy, as Crew Dragon autonomously eased away from its docking port to begin the 21-hour journey home. "We could stay up here longer".

Two recovery ships will be ready to speed to the spacecraft once it lands.

From here, Endeavour is scheduled to remain in free flight for over twelve hours, following which - weather permitting -Bob, Doug, and Endeavour will begin their final preparations for their return to Earth.

Mission chief Chris Cassidy called it an "exciting day" and said he was sad to see the pair leave the ISS, hailing the importance of having a new means to transport astronauts. "And then your vestibular system, your inner ears, play tricks with you".

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He added, "The Do Nothing Democrats are more interested in playing politics than in helping our deserving people ". In mid-May, the Democratic-controlled House passed a US$3 trillion bill that the Republican Senate has ignored.

"As you can imagine, even if you chose to go deep sea fishing one day, and you've lived on Earth your whole life, people get seasick".

"Folks didn't feel well - that's the way it is with a water landing", he said.

Just in case, Hurley said Friday, "there are bags if (we) need them and we'll have those handy, we'll probably have some towels handy as well". "It would be the first time in this particular vehicle if we do".

Upon successful reentry and recovery, the capsule will have completed the certifications needed to have the Crew Dragon approved to support regular flights to and from the orbiting laboratory by future astronauts.

Nasa has contracted with SpaceX and Boeing Co for crew-ferry missions to the space station.

At a farewell ceremony earlier in the day, Cassidy, who will remain on board with two Russians until October, presented Hurley with the small US flag left behind by the previous astronauts to launch to the space station from USA soil.

The splashdown is the final step in the mission created to test SpaceX's human spaceflight system - including launch, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations. NASA could extend that slightly, said Steve Stich, the agency's commercial crew program manager. "My son is six years old and I can tell from the videos that I get and from talking to him on the phone that he's changed a lot", Behnken said. "And so that's the thing I'm most looking forward to, seeing my family, my wife and my son".

If all that weren't challenging enough, NASA and SpaceX are attempting to bring the crew home in the midst of an unusually active hurricane season.

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