While the rest of us suckers have been down in this pandemic mess the whole summer, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have spent the past few months in the International Space Station. They’ve been up there since May 31, following a successful trip on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But today they begin their journey back to Earth, and you can watch the whole process, courtesy of NASA. Here’s how.
How to watch the SpaceX return flight
Though the specific time of the undocking of the Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft from the space station will depend on the weather, NASA and SpaceX are aiming for 7:34 p.m. EST tonight. Then tomorrow (Sunday, August 2), they estimate that splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean will happen around 2:42 p.m. EST at one of seven targeted water landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. This will mark the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station, according to NASA.
You can watch all of the action on NASA’s website. Coverage starts at 9:10 a.m. with a farewell ceremony on the International Space Station. Here’s the full weekend schedule:
Saturday, Aug. 1
- 9:10 a.m. EST – SpaceX Dragon Demo-2 Farewell Ceremony aboard the International Space Station (ceremony begins about 9:15 a.m.)
- 5:15 p.m. EST – NASA TV undocking coverage begins for the 7:34 p.m. EST undocking (NASA Television will have continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)
Sunday, Aug. 2
- 2:42 p.m. EST– Splashdown
- 5 p.m. EST – Administrator post-splashdown news conference
If you’re wondering what, exactly, the point of this mission was, here’s NASA’s explanation:
The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.
The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.
If you didn’t already have weekend plans, you do now.