SpaceX's first Crew Dragon capsule to carry NASA astronauts will undock from the International Space Station tonight (Aug. 1), setting the stage for a historic weekend splashdown.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour is scheduled to undock from the station tonight at 7:34 p.m. EDT (2334 GMT) as its Demo-2 test flight enters its final stage. The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on Sunday (Aug. 2).
Behnken and Hurley are flying on SpaceX's first-ever crewed spaceflight. They launched to the station May 30 and are expected to spend just under a day in orbit before returning to Earth Sunday afternoon, NASA officials said.
You can watch the SpaceX undocking live here and on Space.com's homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. You can also watch it directly from NASA here. NASA's webcast will begin at 5:15 p.m. EDT (2115 GMT) tonight.
Full coverage: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronaut test flight
The astronauts got an early start on their departure with a farewell ceremony this morning to mark the upcoming undocking.
"It's hard to put into words just what it was like to be a part of this Expedition 63," Hurley said of the last two months working with the station's crew. "It'll be kind of a memory that will last a lifetime for me."
Behnken said it's been a great test flight with SpaceX's Crew Dragon, the first commercial spacecraft ever to carry astronauts in orbit, but there's still a big trial ahead.
Launching into space may have been the hardest part of this test flight, "but the most important part is bringing us home," Behnken said.
Behnken and Hurley, or "Bob and Doug" as they've been affectionately dubbed by the public, launched to the space station May 30 as part of SpaceX's historic first crewed mission to space. The launch, which is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, also marks the first crewed commercial mission for NASA.
SpaceX's Demo-2 mission will conclude with the crew's return to Earth, which will be the first U.S. splashdown in nearly 45 years. The pair of veteran astronauts are set to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, one of seven options available, at 2:41 p.m. EDT (1841 GMT) if weather conditions are favorable.
This could prove tricky, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is continuing to Hurricane Isais which is currently headed towards Florida.
NASA officials have said they plan to make a final decision on whether to proceed with undocking about six hours before the event is scheduled to occur. That will come at about 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT). The target landing site could also change depending on weather conditions, they added.
A final landing site, and whether or not the splashdown will be delayed, will be decided upon based on a number of key factors including wind speed, the slope of the ocean waves, rain, lightning, availability of nearby recovery helicopters, the vessel's pitch and roll, the visible ceiling and overall visibility.
Visit Space.com today for complete coverage of the Crew Dragon landing.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with a new target splashdown time of Sunday (Aug. 2) at 2:41 p.m. EDT, one minute earlier than originally planned. NASA and SpaceX updated the splashdown time on Saturday after selecting the primary targeted site off the coast Pensacola, Florida.
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