Miami, Aug 2 (EFE) .- NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley left the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Dragon Endeavor SpaceX capsule this Saturday and if weather conditions allow it, they will arrive on Earth this Sunday after fulfill a historic mission begun on May 30.
If all goes as planned, the capsule will drop into Gulf of Mexico waters around 2:48 p.m. (18.48 GMT) on Sunday and will likely be towed to Pensacola (northwest Florida).
This will end the Demo-2 mission, which will certify the ability of SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, to perform commercial space travel.
Behnken and Hurley’s journey was the first from US soil and on a commercial ship to the ISS since NASA’s 2011 shuttle program ended.
Tropical storm Isaías, which is approaching the east coast of Florida after passing through the Bahamas and the Caribbean, makes it difficult to return to land closer to Cape Canaveral, where the Dragon Endeavor left aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX.
NASA and SpaceX are closely monitoring weather forecasts ahead of the capsule plunging into the sea.
Pensacola is the first port chosen to tow the ship but there are other options on the table.
“If there were to be a change in the weather in the next few hours we could still keep Behnken and Hurley in Earth orbit. They have enough supplies on board to stay indoors for a couple of days,” said a NASA spokeswoman, Leah Cheshier.
That would give time for the weather to improve or to find another place for the capsule dive.
Behnken and Hurley, who have slept eight of the 19 hours it takes to return to Earth from the ISS, were awakened from the control center with an audio recording of their children, according to a NASA statement.
In total, they spent 62 days on board the ISS, during which they circled 1,024 Earths, spent 114 hours in research, and watched various space vehicles arrive and depart from the space station, NASA reported.
Behnken participated in four spacewalks with another NASA astronaut, Chris Cassidy, who was on the ISS when they arrived.
If the outward journey was historic, the return as well, as it will be the first time in 45 years that people can contemplate the landing of a spaceship.
The last time was on July 21, 1975, when the crew of an Apollo-Soyuz mission fell into the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii.
In 2014, NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX contracts totaling $ 6.8 billion to develop the commercial space transportation program and stop depending on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that has orbited the astronauts of the US agency since it was canceled. its ferry program in 2011.
(c) EFE Agency