Two months after the first manned launch of the “Crew Dragon” spaceship developed by the private company SpaceX to the ISS, two US astronauts are on their way back to Earth. Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley docked with the “Endeavor” space capsule from the human outpost at 400 kilometers above ground on Sunday night (CEST), as live recordings by the US space agency Nasa showed.
On the way home
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“Hurley and Behnken are on their way home!” Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine tweeted. Hurley said in a tweet that it was “honor and privilege” to be part of the mission. NASA had previously announced that the astronauts were scheduled to land off the Florida coast near the city of Pensacola in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday evening (CEST). Until recently, the weather had worried about the cyclone “Isaias” in the region. However, the low pressure area should move along Florida’s eastern coast – hundreds of kilometers away from Pensacola.
Behnken and Hurley launched from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida in late May. It was the first time after almost a nine-year hiatus that astronauts flew to the ISS from the United States and the first time that they had been carried by a private space company. SpaceX had previously only transported cargo to the ISS.
With delay regardless of Russia
The last time astronauts flew to the ISS in summer 2011 was on the “Atlantis” space shuttle. Thereafter, NASA mothballed its space shuttle fleet for cost reasons and has since been dependent on Russia for flights to the ISS. At around 80 million euros per flight in a Russian Soyuz capsule, this was not only expensive, but also hurt the pride of the United States.
In fact, NASA’s own flights from the USA to the ISS had already been announced for 2017 – due to technical problems, funding difficulties and restructuring after Donald Trump was elected president, the project was postponed.
The return can be watched live at NASA in the video stream. The space capsule is currently scheduled to be flooded in the Gulf of Mexico at 8:48 p.m. CEST. If you want to follow this, you should switch on in good time beforehand – the thrust, which should slow the “Endeavor” and allow it to descend, is planned for 19:51 (CEST), as in a NASA blog post called.
Russia brings tourists to the ISS again
Meanwhile, the Russian space agency Roskosmos announced that two tourists will fly to the ISS again at the end of next year. They are said to take off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. At first, their names were not mentioned. The space agency had signed a contract with the specialized US company Space Adventures for space tourism. Such trips to the ISS have existed since 2001. The first of seven space tourists to date was the US multimillionaire Dennis Tito.