The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft was docked on Saturday by the International Space Station with two U.S. astronauts on board, and began its journey back to Earth despite a storm that threatens Florida.
NASA images showed the capsule slowly moving away from the ISS in the darkness of space and closing on board for two months so that the first US astronauts to reach the orbit laboratory of an American spacecraft in almost a decade.
"And they're gone!" The U.S. space agency tweeted that Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken wanted to splash around on Sunday.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, shown separately from the International Space Station, has started its journey back to Earth
Separation Confirmed: The Dragon capsules perform four burns to move away from the ISS. They're returning to Earth with a rare splashdown for Sunday
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, left, before undocking from the International Space Station
This NASA photo shows astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from the front left during an interview at the International Space Station on Saturday
SpaceX will webcast the return of the dragon capsule crew to Earth on Saturday
NASA later added that the capsule was "on a safe path".
"It's been a great two months and we appreciate everything you did as a crew to prove Dragon on his maiden flight," Hurley told remaining US station crew member Chris Cassidy when Crew Dragon autonomously moved from its remote docking Port to start the 21-hour journey home.
Your planned splash points are off the west Florida coastline of Panhandle, while Isaias' tropical storm is headed for the state's east coast.
NASA decided to take the couple home despite the threat from Isaiah, which was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Saturday.
SpaceX tweeted about the successful separation of the Crew Dragon capsule when they started the journey back to Earth
This NASA video image shows a SpaceX spacecraft Crew Dragon with NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, who look at an infrared view of the ISS on their screens after undocking
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule can be seen docked to the right of the International Space Station while a spacewalk is under the direction of astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy
Bob Behnken is pictured in the SpaceX Crew Dragon on Friday before returning to Earth on Saturday
"Hopefully the entry, dismount and squirt phase after we undocked is now a little later today," said Hurley in a farewell ceremony aboard the ISS that aired on NASA television.
When entering Earth's atmosphere, the Crew Dragon will be exposed to scorching temperatures of around 1,900 ° C when using parachutes to slow down to about 119 miles an hour before landing on the ocean.
Splashdown is the final step in the mission to test the SpaceX human spacecraft system, including launch, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations.
The last time astronauts made an ocean landing was in July 1975 during an Apollo mission.
"The teams are working very hard, especially with the pace of weather in Florida over the next few days," he said.
Earlier, during the ISS ceremony, Behnken said: “The hardest thing was getting us started. But the most important thing is to take us home. & # 39;
He spoke to his son and Hurley's son, held up a toy dinosaur that the children had sent on the mission, and said, "Tremor the Apatosaurus will be home soon and he will be with your fathers."
Behnken later tweeted: "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go."
Mission chief Chris Cassidy called it an "exciting day" and welcomed the importance of a new mode of transportation for astronauts.
This photo from NASA shows astronauts Bob Behnken, Chris Cassidy and Doug Hurley from left during an interview on the International Space Station on Friday
Bob Behnken (r) and Doug Hurley (l) flew from Cape Canaveral on May 30 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon and are scheduled to splash off the coast of Florida on Sunday
The mission, which started on May 30, was the first time since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended that a spacecraft with crew from American soil had launched into orbit.
It was also the first time that a private company flew to the ISS with astronauts.
The U.S. has paid SpaceX and aerospace giant Boeing a total of approximately $ 7 billion for their space taxi contracts.
However, the Boeing program has started to falter after a failed test run at the end of last year, with SpaceX, a company that was only founded in 2002, left as the clear leader.
For the past nine years, US astronauts have only traveled with Russian Soyuz rockets at a cost of around $ 80 million per seat.
The Falcon 9 rocket was imaged on May 30 with the company's spacecraft Crew Dragon
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