Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, astronauts from NASA made history back in May when they were sent to space in the SpaceX’s Falcon 9, on their journey to the ISS. They have been on the station all summer, but they will soon need to get back to Earth. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that the Dragon will leave the space station on the 1st of August, and will be back on Earth the following day.
The launch from May was a big deal since it meant years of planning to bring the spaceflight back to the US. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program, American astronauts were only able to travel to the station in Russian Soyuz capsules. This one helped a lot in completing a bridge between the Shuttle and private vehicles, which also cost a lot.
SpaceX is one of the few companies which were approved by NASA to build this kind of spacecraft. Another company is Boeing. Even if the latter had more funding, it had to deal with some software issues with its capsule last year. SpaceX had to take over with the DM-2 mission.
The Crew Dragon capsule has stayed at the ISS all of these weeks, and it will be a challenge to bring back to Earth the crew. When Boeing catches up, NASA will be able to expand NASA’s access to the station.
In the future, astronauts might be getting back on Earth on different vehicles than they arrived in. But Behnken and Hurley will be using the same capsule to come home. The most dangerous part of this mission would be reentering the atmosphere, and NASA has to look at how the Dragon’s head shield and parachute system work. After they get in the ocean, the astronauts will be picked up by a SpaceX recovery vessel.