SUNDAY 2:50 P.M. UPDATE:
The SpaceX Crew Dragon has splashed down off the Pensacola coast, ending a two-month-long test mission which included a docking with the International Space Station.
The capsule carrying test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. EDT Sunday, less than a day after departing from the ISS, after spending two months there.
“Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” the company’s Mission Control stated.
SpaceX is set to send another crew into orbit as early as next month, with the possibility of tourist flights by next year.
SpaceX test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken departed the International Space Station on Saturday night, and awoke to a recording of their young children urging them to “rise and shine” and “we can’t wait to see you.”
“Don’t worry, you can sleep in tomorrow,” said Behnken’s 6-year-old son Theo, who was promised a puppy after the flight. “Hurry home so we can go get my dog.”
The Dragon capsule, which was named Endeavour by its crew, is set to go from an orbital speed of 17,500 mph to 350 mph during re-entry in the atmosphere and then to just 15 mph at splashdown.
Peak heating during descent will be 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, a SpaceX recovery ship which includes more than 40 staff, including doctors and nurses, will move in at splashdown, with two smaller, faster boats leading the way.
SpaceX expects it to take a half-hour for the ship to arrive at the capsule, and additional time needed to lift it out of the water onto the deck.
A flight surgeon will then be the first to look into the capsule when the hatch is pulled open. After undergoing medical exams, the astronauts are expected to fly home to Houston.
The last time that NASA astronauts returned from space to water was on July 24, 1975, in the Pacific, ending a joint U.S.-Soviet mission known as Apollo-Soyuz.
The Mercury and Gemini crews of the early- to mid-1960s parachuted into the Atlantic, while most of the later Apollo capsules hit the Pacific Ocean.
NASA says that after assessing weather conditions for splashdown off the Pensacola coast, teams from the national space agency and Space X are moving ahead with preparations to bring astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley home.
This will be the first splashdown for astronauts in 45 years.
BREAKING: @NASA and @SpaceX are targeting Pensacola as the primary return location for Crew Dragon w/ @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken from the @Space_Station. We are targeting undocking at 7:34 p.m. EDT today. Read more: https://t.co/Xdh8iIpLxz pic.twitter.com/9p5TRMevAH
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) August 1, 2020
The alternate site is located off the coast of Panama City in the Gulf of Mexico. The mission teams will continue to monitor the impact of Tropical Storm Isaias to potential splashdown sites.
Crew Dragon will depart the @Space_Station with @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug in about 6 hours and splash down off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:41 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 2. Demo-2 return webcast begins today at ~5:15 p.m. EDT → https://t.co/bJFjLCzWdK pic.twitter.com/JZdhG1ATzA
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 1, 2020
NASA stated the following Saturday:
SpaceX will monitor changes to conditions until 2.5 hours prior to the scheduled undocking, when a determination to proceed with departure will be made. If conditions are marginal and exceed the accepted criteria, a joint recommendation by SpaceX and NASA will be made whether to proceed with undocking at 7:34 p.m. EDT. NASA and SpaceX will make the final decision to proceed after the astronauts are ready inside Crew Dragon just before undocking.
Live coverage of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 return will begin at 5:15 p.m. and continue through the targeted splashdown at 2:41 p.m. on Sunday, the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station. It will wrap up NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight after more than two months at the International Space Station.
The splashdown is planned for 2:41 PM EDT.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon that took off from Kennedy Space Center aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on May 30.