NASA will host conferences as Astronauts prepare to return aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon

NASA will host conferences as Astronauts prepare to return aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon

After two months at the International Space Station (ISS), NASA astronauts Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken and Douglas ‘Doug’ Hurley are preparing to return to Earth. The brave duo launched to space aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft during the company’s first crewed mission to the orbiting laboratory on May 30. The mission, referred as Demo-2, made history as it returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The agency had been highly dependent on Russian spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the station for about nine years. 

Behnken and Hurley have been assessing Dragon’s performance as its docked to the station, conducting scientific experiments, and even conducted a set of four spacewalks to upgrade the station’s power system. “Behnken is now turning his attention to readying the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle that will return he and fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley to Earth at the beginning of August. They will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter on August 1,” the agency wrote in a press release.



The Demo-2 mission is expected to come to an end on August 2nd. It will be the first time SpaceX brings back humans from space aboard the Crew Dragon capsule. – “The duo will splashdown on August 2 ending NASA’s first crewed mission aboard a commercial spacecraft. Behnken and Hurley packed clothing, personal items and other gear today inside the Crew Dragon.” They “also tried on a specialized suit to help their bodies adapt to the conditions of Earth’s gravity upon their return,” NASA shared. 

Although NASA targets the August 2nd date, it will all depend on weather conditions at the seven designated splashdown zones.  The final date and time will be announced on Wednesday, July 29, during a ‘Return Flight Readiness Review’ conference to assess if conditions are favorable to return. The agency will hold a series of conferences that will be live-steamed via NASA TV, in the video below.

The agency plans to undock the spacecraft from the station’s Harmony module at around 7:34 p.m. EDT. on Saturday, August 1st, to initiate their return voyage. About 6 hours after Dragon’s undocking, NASA and SpaceX officials will decide where the spacecraft will splashdown with Behnken and Hurley aboard. NASA stated:

“Return time for Behnken and Hurley will vary depending on the undock and splashdown opportunities chosen, with the primary opportunity taking between six and 30 hours.” 

Their splashdown is scheduled for 2:42 p.m. EDT. on Sunday, August 2nd. “NASA and SpaceX are capable of supporting seven splashdown sites off the coast of Florida for the return of Crew Dragon. The seven potential splashdown sites for Crew Dragon are off the coasts of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona, and Jacksonville.” The agency also said the multiple splashdown locations were selected in case of unfavorable weather in a particular landing zone.

Source: NASA

“Teams also prioritize locations which require the shortest amount of time between undocking and splashdown based on orbital mechanics, and splashdown opportunities that occur in daylight hours,” the agency added. “Shortly before the final deorbit burn, Crew Dragon will separate from its trunk, which will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft then executes the deorbit burn, which commits Crew Dragon to return and places it on an orbit with the proper trajectory for splashdown.” During the reentry process Dragon will be subjected to temperatures as hot as 1,950° degrees Celsius! The spacecraft features a heat shield to endure the extreme atmosphere conditions. 

Once it crosses Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft's drogue parachute will deploy at about 5.5 kilometers above the planet's surface, then at around 2 kilometers its main parachutes will deploy to conduct the parachute-assisted landing in the ocean. The astronauts are expected to remain inside Crew Dragon for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on weather and ocean conditions. SpaceX recovery teams will navigate aboard the Go Searcher and the Go Navigator ships to pick them up. These ships feature a medical room and even a helicopter landing pad to assist the astronauts upon return.



Livestream Schedule

Wednesday, July 29

Approximately 6 p.m.(or one hour after Return Flight Readiness Review completion) – Return Flight

Readiness Review briefing at Johnson, with the following participants:

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program

Benji Reed, director, crew mission management, SpaceX

Friday, July 31

10:45 a.m. – Crew News Conference from the International Space Station, with the following participants:

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy

Saturday, Aug. 1

9:10 a.m. – SpaceX Dragon Demo-2 Farewell Ceremony aboard the International Space Station (ceremony begins about 9:15 a.m.)

5:15 p.m. – NASA TV undocking coverage begins for the 7:34 p.m. undocking (NASA Television will have continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)

Sunday, Aug. 2

2:42 p.m. – Splashdown

5 p.m. – Administrator post-splashdown news conference at Johnson, with the following representatives:

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

Commercial Crew Program representative

International Space Station representative

SpaceX representative

NASA Astronaut Office representative

A media phone bridge will be available for this event.

Tuesday, Aug. 4

4:30 p.m. – Demo-2 Crew News Conference from the Johnson Space Center, with the following participants:

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley




About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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