The American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are on their way to the Gulf of Mexico after more than two months on board the International Space Station (ISS). The astronauts were disconnected on the night from Saturday to Sunday. The pair are on board the Crew Dragon capsule from space company SpaceX, which is preparing for the first manned landing in its history.
At the end of May, SpaceX wrote history when it sent Behnken and Hurley to the International Space Station. Not only was it the first time since 2011 that American astronauts took off from their home ground, it was also the first-ever commercial astronaut launch, ever.
The astronauts are picked up by boat by SpaceX when they land in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Florida. At nearly 5.5 kilometers altitude, the Dragon’s fall is mitigated by large parachutes, while at 2 kilometers four huge parachutes slow the capsule to a safe landing speed.
The weather conditions for SpaceX’s first manned landing seem favorable. Both landing sites off the coast of Florida don’t seem to be in the path of Hurricane Isaiah, which is also headed for the U.S. state.
Astronauts land on Earth after a nineteen-hour journey
It is expected to take nineteen hours for the Crew Dragon capsule to enter Earth’s atmosphere, and Behnken and Hurley are heading for their landing. They can sleep for eight hours on board the Dragon before they have to prepare for landing.
The pair could have stayed on board ISS for two months longer, after which the Dragon’s solar panels could be damaged.
Performing a successful landing is an important milestone for SpaceX. The space agency owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk is developing a space program on behalf of the United States government, and this space flight was the first real test for the company.