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Nasa astronauts head home on SpaceX Dragon as storm eases

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The reentry of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule

NASA and SpaceX chose a site off the coast of Pensacola on Florida's Panhandle, rather than more easterly candidates, to stay far away from the track of Tropical Storm Isaias along Florida's East Coast.

The capsule that carried Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken into space will be refurbished and launched on SpaceX's second operational crewed mission, Crew 2, due to take place early next year.

In May, Endeavour's launch atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket made history, and today's return to Earth did as well: It was the first time since 1975 that a crewed NASA spacecraft returned to Earth at sea, and the first space landing in the Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX and NASA, in preparation for the upcoming undocking of the DEMO-2 Crew Dragon from the International Space Station, are continuing to monitor weather patterns in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX and NASA are targeting 7:34 PM EDT on August 1 (5:04 AM IST on August 2) for Crew Dragon to autonomously undock from the Space Station with the two astronauts aboard the spacecraft.

The mission is also a major win for Elon Musk's SpaceX, which was founded in only 2002 but has leap-frogged its way past Boeing, its main competitor in the commercial space race.

Hoping to galvanise a commercial space marketplace, Nasa awarded almost US$8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing Co collectively in 2014 to develop dueling space capsules, experimenting with a contract model that allows the space agency to buy astronaut seats from the two companies.

Overnight, Dragon Endeavour will slowly descend from the ISS, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth using brief engine burns to lower its altitude overnight.

A successful splashdown, Behnken said, will bring US -crew launching capability "full circle".

NASA, aiming to galvanize a commercial space marketplace, awarded almost $8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing Co collectively in 2014 to develop dueling space capsules, experimenting with a contract model that allows the space agency to buy astronaut seats from the two companies.

NASA is also taking extra precautions to protect workers and the astronauts, including testing people who come in contact with the astronauts.

"Thank you to all!" Since then the United States has relied on Russia's space program to launch its astronauts to the space station. This next mission of four astronauts will spend a full six months aboard the space station.

Once the astronauts reach the port in Pensacola, they will board the NASA Gulfstream and head to Houston for a ceremony at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base.

The US has had to rely on Russian Federation for this goal since the last Space Shuttle flew in 2011. That will be followed by a crewed flight test, with two NASA astronauts and former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who now works for Boeing, some time in 2021. "Don't worry, you can sleep in tomorrow", Behnken's 6-year-old son, Theo, told his dad.

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