US astronauts pack up for rare splashdown

Post- Getty Images

Post- Getty Images

In exchange for extending the Demo-2 test flight-carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken-from two weeks to up to 119 days, SpaceX got permission to reuse spacecraft instead of building new ones. The spacecraft is expected to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean at 11:42 a.m. California time Sunday, arriving at one of seven "targeted water landing sites", according to SpaceX. The current preferred splashdown zone is just south of Panama City.

Crew-2, which will be the second fully operational Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after Crew-1, will launch four astronauts into orbit.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (right) and Bob Behnken (second right) after boarding the International Space Station, where they were welcomed by fellow astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy (center) and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin (left) and Ivan Vagner (second left).

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off on May 30 amid a blaze of publicity.

He said the astronauts could always stay on the space station longer. "There's more chow, and I know the space station program's got more work that we can do for the folks that have sent science up here to the space station".

If all goes to plan, the splashdown will usher in a new era for Nasa, which will have at least one commercial spacecraft ready to launch astronauts into space from U.S. soil.

This July 1, 2020 photo made available by NASA shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon, right, docked to the International Space station, during a spacewalk conducted by astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy.

The Dragon capsule will be in the water for about an hour before it's hauled by crane onto a SpaceX recovery ship.

Undocking from the International Space Station is scheduled for 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday. Sea conditions must be within favorable limits to safely recover the crew.

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Dragon is shown coming in for its final approach in late May.

But even before their mission is completed, SpaceX is already deep into planning for the next one. "It will be the first time in this particular vehicle, if we do".

"Just like on an airliner, there are bags if you need them".

The capsule will splash down in the ocean and a recovery team on boats will scoop up the crew and capsule.

"This is SpaceX's final test flight in NASA's Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, landing, and crew return operations", said NASA in the statement.

A successful unpiloted test flight was carried out previous year, helping clear the way for Hurley and Behnken to blast off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30.

It marked the first launch of NASA astronauts from the U.S. in almost a decade and also the first time a private company sent people into orbit. Boeing's first crew flight isn't expected until next year.

"We're really excited to see our families", Behnken said. "And so that's the thing I'm most looking forward to, seeing my family, my wife and my son". After Behnken and Hurley return to Earth, their spacecraft will undergo a series of inspections in Florida to assess how the vehicle performed throughout its flight.

Hurley and Behnken, both veterans of Space Shuttle missions, boarded the orbiting space lab May 31 following the eagerly-anticipated launch of the Demo-2 mission from Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

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