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NASA-SpaceX Crew Dragon return mission

August 2, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are returning home from the International Space Station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Jackie Wattles, CNN Business

What's happening: NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are returning home from the International Space Station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

When: The Crew Dragon is expected to parachute to a splashdown landing in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p. m. ET.

Even with Tropical Storm Isaias moving in, NASA forecasts calm weather.

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

The last time NASA executed a splashdown was in 1975, when it completed an experimental mission that docked a NASA Apollo spacecraft with a Soviet Soyuz capsule in orbit.

Water landings were a common practice in the earliest days of the US space program: Every vehicle made during NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs were built for ocean splashdowns.

But the practice was retired when NASA moved on to the Space Shuttle program.

The other modern crewed vehicles — including Russia’s Soyuz, China’s crew spacecraft and Boeing’s forthcoming Starliner spacecraft — are all designed to land on the ground.

The cargo-only version of its Dragon spacecraft, which has flown resupply missions to the ISS for years, routinely lands in the ocean.

And Crew Dragon was flown on an uncrewed test mission last year.

NASA's forthcoming Orion crew capsule, which the space agency hopes will take humans back to the Moon, will also conduct splashdown landings.

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

The ship will also have a crew of about 40 SpaceX and NASA personnel — including engineers, water recovery experts, medical professionals, and NASA cargo experts.

From there, the they'll board a NASA airplane that will shuttle them to Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA’s official home base for astronauts.

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Rough winds and high waves are exactly what SpaceX and NASA are hoping to avoid.

But Tropical Storm Isaias is barreling toward Florida's east coast on Sunday, threatening intense winds capable of damaging roofs and buildings.

NASA and SpaceX predetermined seven potential splashdown sites for this mission, four of which are to the west of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico: Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, and Panama City.

And in that area, the wind and wave heights appear calm enough for the Crew Dragon to land safely.

But calling off the splashdown is a situation NASA and SpaceX really hope to avoid.

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley — both married to fellow NASA astronauts — have young families waiting at home for them.

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

So why does SpaceX steer its Crew Dragon capsules to water landings?

And instead of using parachutes, CEO Elon Musk hoped Crew Dragon would use its engines to slow its descent — using what's called a propulsive landing.

But, SpaceX ditched those plans.

Crew Dragon's predecessor, SpaceX's cargo Dragon vehicle, also regularly conducts water landings.

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