Nasa astronauts prepare for rare ocean landing on return from historic SpaceX mission

2 August 2020, 12:45 | Updated: 2 August 2020, 12:48

Nasa astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are making their back down to Earth
Nasa astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are making their back down to Earth. Picture: PA Images/NASA
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Two Nasa astronauts will make the first splashdown return to Earth in 45 years after SpaceX's astronaut carrier the Crew Dragon successfully undocked from the International Space Station (ISS).

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are returning to Earth amid the threat of Hurricane Isaias, which is edging closer to their landing destination on the south Florida coast.

Their departure from the ISS was announced by SpaceX, which tweeted: "Separation confirmed. Dragon performing four departure burns to move away from the Space Station.

Nasa advised the Crew Dragon was "on a safe trajectory" back to Earth and are expected to splash down at 2.48pm (7.48pm BST).

The last time astronauts made an ocean landing was on July 1975 during an Apollo mission.

If all goes to plan, the splashdown will usher in a new era for Nasa, which will have at least one commercial spacecraft ready to launch astronauts into space from US soil.

SpaceX tweeted a live feed of the Crew Dragon's return to Earth for people across the world to watch.

An image released by Nasa shows the Crew Dragon capsule detaching from the International Space Station
An image released by Nasa shows the Crew Dragon capsule detaching from the International Space Station. Picture: PA Images/NASA

The astronauts made history on 30 May when they became the first people to launch into low-Earth orbit on a commercial spacecraft that was built by SpaceX.

Their mission, named Demo-2, also marked the first time Nasa launched astronauts from US soil in nine years.

Since then, spacemen have always landed on terra firma, using Nasa's Space Shuttle or the Russian space agency's Soyuz capsules.

On entering the Earth's atmosphere, the Crew Dragon will face scorching temperatures of around 1,900 degrees celsius as it deploys parachutes to slow its speed down to around 119 miles per hour and before landing on the ocean.lands in the ocean.

The splashdown is the final step in the mission designed to test SpaceX's human spaceflight system - including launch, docking, splashdown, and recovery operations.