American astronauts return to Earth in SpaceX Dragon capsule

If the landing is successful, the end of the mission will mark the first landing of astronauts since 1975.

Two NASA astronauts who arrived at the International space station (ISS) in late May on a SpaceX rocket are returning to Earth.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken attended a farewell ceremony on the ISS on Saturday, hours before their scheduled departure to Earth in a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

Despite the approach of hurricane Isaias to the US, NASA said the weather is favorable for the capsule to land on Sunday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama city, Florida. This will be the first landing of astronauts in the last 45 years. The last time the astronauts were brought back after the joint space mission of the United States and the USSR “Apollo-Soyuz” in 1975.

The astronauts are completing their two-month mission, which marked a new era in the American space industry – the US has launched its own rocket into space for the first time in many years with a crew on Board.

After launching Hurley and Behnken from the Kennedy Space center on May 30, SpaceX became the first private company to send people into Earth orbit. Now SpaceX should become the first private company to bring people back from orbit.

“The launch was more difficult, but the most important thing is our return home,” Behnken said.

According to Behnken, a successful landing will allow us to call the launch of the American crew of astronauts a “full cycle.”

ISS commander Chris Cassidy, who will remain on Board with two Russian cosmonauts until October, presented Hurley with a small US flag left by previous astronauts after being launched to the ISS from US territory in July 2011. Hurley was the pilot on this last Shuttle flight. This flag will be delivered to the moon in the future as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is easily ahead of Boeing, which doesn’t plan to launch its first team until next year. The Next SpaceX crew flight is scheduled for the end of September.