NASA astronauts prepare for return from International Space Station

The astronauts launched ion May 30th in a spacecraft made by SpaceX.
The astronauts launched ion May 30th in a spacecraft made by SpaceX.

Two Nasa astronauts are getting ready to make the first splashdown return in 45 years.

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are set to come back to Earth from the International Space Station on Sunday, amid threats of a looming hurricane.

The duo made history on May 30th when they became the first people to launch into low-Earth orbit on a commercial spacecraft that was built by SpaceX.

Their mission, named Demo-2, also marked the first time Nasa launched astronauts from US soil in nine years.

The US space agency said plans are moving forward to bring the astronauts home, with the splashdown expected to occur just off the coast of Florida.

The pair are scheduled to undock from the space station at around 12:30am Irish time, and travel in SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, before splashdown at 7:40pm.

Return can be more dangerous than the ascent.

The last time astronauts made an ocean landing was on July 1975 during an Apollo mission. Since then, spacemen have always landed on terra firma, using Nasa’s Space Shuttle or the Russian space agency’s Soyuz capsules.

In a post-launch conference back in May, Elon Musk – who is the founder of SpaceX – said was was not keen to “declare victory yet”, emphasising that the “return can be more dangerous than the ascent”.

Mr Musk said at that time: “We need to bring them home safely and make sure that we are doing everything we can to minimise that risk of reentry.”

The re-entry will create a communications blackout between the spacecraft and Earth that is expected to last approximately six minutes, Nasa said.

Two SpaceX recovery ships, the Go Searcher and the Go Navigator, made up of spacecraft engineers, recovery experts and medical professionals, will be waiting to pull the capsule on board and help the astronauts get out as they begin readjusting to gravity.

The re-entry will mark the end of SpaceX’s human spaceflight demonstration mission.

The aerospace company’s first operational flight is expected to take place in September, where a second Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry four astronauts to the space station.

Meanwhile, the capsule that carried Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken into space will be refurbished and launched during SpaceX’s second operational crewed mission, Crew 2, which will take place early next year.

Most Read in #Discover