For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – After two action packed months in space the two-man veteran crew of NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will depart the International Space Station (ISS) later today, Saturday, Aug. 1 inside their history-making SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Dragon Endeavour test vehicle and return to Earth tomorrow afternoon Aug. 2 for the 1st splashdown of Americans from space in 45 years.
The Demo-2 mission also marks the first piloted return of a SpaceX Crew Dragon – a flight of many historic firsts already including the first launch of US astronauts from US soil on US rockets in 9 years.
Furthermore the Crew Dragon departure also comes just 2 days after the history making launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on a mission to search for life beyond Earth.
But the churning weather in the form of threating Hurricane Isaias off the US East Coast has forced a change in targeting for the ocean landing zone from the Florida’s coastline Atlantic Ocean coastline stretching from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville to Florida’s West Coast in the Gulf of Mexico.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed the Demo-2 undocking and splashdown plans.
“NEWS: Teams from @NASA and @SpaceX remain GO with plans to bring @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken home to Earth on Sunday afternoon. We will continue to monitor weather before undocking Saturday night,” Bridenstine tweeted.
NEWS: Teams from @NASA and @SpaceX remain GO with plans to bring @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken home to Earth on Sunday afternoon. We will continue to monitor weather before undocking Saturday night. Read more: https://t.co/GjXe4q6tQA
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) August 1, 2020
Behnken and Hurley and the three-man crew of Expedition 63 who will remain behind and aboard the ISS held a joint farewell ceremony at 9:15 a.m. ET this morning as they make final preparation to depart the station
“The hardest part was getting us launched, but the most important part is bringing us home [to our sons],” Behnken said.
“For Jack and Theo, Tremor the apatosaurus is headed home soon and he’ll be with your dads. You’ll have to pick which one of us is your favorite.”
"Now as Doug mentioned, we're about to embark on the final portion of the journey… The hardest part was getting us launched, but the most important part is bringing us home." – @AstroBehnken on the #LaunchAmerica crew's return to Earth aboard the @SpaceX Dragon Endeavour pic.twitter.com/tEeL05gXWe
— NASA (@NASA) August 1, 2020
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, “Endeavor,” is scheduled to undock from the space station at 7:34 p.m. EDT – so long as favorable weather conditions for splashdown permit off the coast of Florida.
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) July 31, 2020
“NASA and SpaceX teams will decide on the primary location for splashdown later this afternoon, about six hours before Crew Dragon undocks from the orbiting laboratory. Teams will continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle,” NASA officials said.
You can watch NASA TV and the agency’s website for live undocking coverage that begins at 5 p.m. for the 7:34 p.m. undocking
Among other items they will be returning the US Flag brought up to the ISS on the last US astronaut launch in 2011 by Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-135 mission in July 2011- as well as the Apatosaurus named ‘Tremor’ – the Zero-G indicator suggest by their two sons.
“This flag has spent some time up here, on the order of 9 years… I’m very proud to return this flag home and see what’s next for it on its journey to the Moon.” – @Astro_Doug with the U.S. flag that will return home with the #LaunchAmerica crew & fly on the 1st #Artemis mission,” NASA tweeted.
"This flag has spent some time up here, on the order of 9 years… I'm very proud to return this flag home and see what's next for it on its journey to the Moon." – @Astro_Doug with the U.S. flag that will return home with the #LaunchAmerica crew & fly on the 1st #Artemis mission pic.twitter.com/aHYoE82c1N
— NASA (@NASA) August 1, 2020
“It’s an exciting day for us all as we bid farewell to our two friends and colleagues, Bob and Doug, as they complete the journey of this amazing test mission,” said Expedition 63 commander and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.
“All my bags are packed,” Behnken tweeted.
— Bob Behnken (@AstroBehnken) August 1, 2020
Hurley tweeted a birdseye photo of Hurricane Isaias from aboard ISS.
“This photo of Hurricane Isaias was taken a few hours ago as it travels northwest between Cuba and the Bahamas. I hope the people in its path stay safe and I hope it doesn’t disrupt our return to Earth on Sunday,” Hurley tweeted.
This photo of Hurricane Isaias was taken a few hours ago as it travels northwest between Cuba and the Bahamas. I hope the people in its path stay safe and I hope it doesn’t disrupt our return to Earth on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/nkyldd7NhF
— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) July 31, 2020
Splashdown is slated to occur at 2:42 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 2, and will also be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.
The NASA and SpaceX teams have seven splashdown zones to choose from on the East and Gulf coasts of Florida.
If all goes as planned Behnken and Hurley will have spent 64 days in orbit or just over two months.
The last US splashdown occurred almost exactly 45 years ago on the historic Apollo Soyuz test flight on July 24, 1975 – the first international joint mission and handshake in space between the US and the then Soviet Union that absolutely paved the way to international cooperation culminating in the International Space Station.
The historic Demo-2 test flight mission began with the beautiful and flawless blastoff of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA veteran astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifting off at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 30, on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the International Space Station (ISS) – to the cheers of tens of thousands of spectators gathered from around America and three days after dismal weather forced a scrub of the first attempt on Wednesday.
Behnken and Hurley flying aboard the commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour safely docked at the ISS Sunday morning, May 31, just 19 hours after the first human launch from US soil for the first time in nine years on a history making and flawless blastoff from the Florida Space Coast.
SpaceX also successfully landed the 1st stage booster.
And just last week they relaunched the booster and landed it for a 2nd time
See our earlier articles and photos.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events