Updated: August 2, 2020 9:37:46 pm
The first astronauts launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company have departed the International Space Station (ISS) and are on course for the final and most important part of their test flight—returning to Earth with a retro-style splashdown.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are just hours away from the splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida, two months after a rocket ship designed and built by SpaceX company lifted off on a history-making flight to the ISS. The event will mark the first splashdown in 45 years for NASA astronauts and the first return in the gulf.
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The two astronauts bid farewell to the three men left behind as their SpaceX Dragon capsule undocked and headed toward a descent by parachute. SpaceX has cleared DEMO-2 for nominal flights back and forth to the Space Station. The next flight for the Crew Dragon will likely be in Spring 2021.
Space station commander Chris Cassidy rang the ship’s bell as Dragon pulled away, 267 miles (430 kilometers) above Johannesburg, South Africa. Within a few minutes, all that could be seen of the capsule was a pair of flashing lights against the black void of space.
“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 radioed to the space station.
With splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico scheduled a little after midnight on Sunday in India (2.48 pm EDT, or 12.18 am IST on Monday) the curtains will hopefully come down on what is much more than just another successful technology demonstration experiment in NASA and SpaceX’s history. This will be the first launch and landing of American astronauts from American soil after nine years.
This is the first time after nine years since NASA shut down its space shuttle program back in 2011. This is also the first time that a private spacecraft company used its own rocket to put humans into space.
(Inputs from AP)
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