The two US astronauts scheduled to land in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon have disengaged from the International Space Station (ISS), concluding a historic mission to test human spaceflight operations for SpaceX hardware. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who headed the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, were dropped at 19:35 on Saturday. Their return trip to Earth is expected to last around 19 hours and the splash down is expected around 2.41 pm off the coast of Florida, 8.41 pm in Italy.
In May, the two astronauts became the first to dock a privately owned spacecraft (Tesla founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX) on the ISS. It was the first launch from U.S. territory in nearly a decade and the first time that a private company, rather than a government space agency, sent astronauts into orbit.
The purpose of the trip was to complete the validation of human spaceflight operations for SpaceX hardware, which will pave the way for private companies to transport astronauts to the ISS, ushering in a new era of commercial spaceflight.