NASA, SpaceX keeping close eye on Hurricane Isaias ahead of bringing astronauts back to Earth

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As of the latest advisory, there are hurricane warnings along the east coast of Florida. This could impact where the astronauts could splashdown.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two history-making astronauts are gearing up to return to Earth this weekend.

But NASA and SpaceX are keeping a close eye on weather developments around Florida, specifically regarding Hurricane Isaias, which strengthened Thursday night.

While there is still much uncertainty with this storm, the forecast cone does take it near Florida, specifically along the east coast. However, the storm is still a couple of days away from the state, so both its path and intensity are likely to change some.

As of the latest advisory, there are hurricane warnings along the east coast of Florida. This could impact where the astronauts could splashdown.


As of Friday afternoon, NASA said undocking of Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is tentatively set for 6:34 p.m. CT Saturday with a splashdown around 1:42 p.m. CT Sunday. Pensacola is being targeted as the primary return location for Crew Dragon.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley talked about their upcoming return home from the International Space Station during a live news conference on Friday.

As for NASA and SpaceX, the teams have seven splashdown spots around Florida, off both of its coasts. Off the west coast, possible splashdown spots include Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City and Pensacola. One the east coast, Cape Canaveral tops the list along with Daytona and Jacksonville.

“We’re carefully looking at the weather; getting ready for the undocking, deorbit and landing,” NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich said during a briefing Wednesday.

Stich said these are the main things teams are monitoring when it comes to weather: wind speed, wave height, rain, lightning and visibility.

NASA and SpaceX will make a decision about a primary splashdown location about six hours before undocking on Saturday.

Stich said there will be multiple weather briefings at 24 hours before undocking, six hours prior and then 2.5 hours before.


If weather — or anything else — prevents a splashdown this weekend, NASA said undocking would be moved to Monday.

“This is a test flight,” Stich said. “We’re going to take out time to come home. We have plenty of opportunities in August.”

SpaceX Crew Mission Management Director Benji Reed said the SpaceX and NASA teams are giving the return trip the same attention as with a launch.

“Bringing a spaceship home…it’s a big deal,” Reed said. “That sacred honor…making sure we bring Bob and Doug home to their families.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said all teams remain “GO for return” following the flight readiness review, which was done Wednesday.

“Entry, descent and landing are ahead of us,” Bridenstine said. “We can’t wait to get Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley back to Earth.”

With Behnken and Doug’s return just days away, there’s another history-making moment coming with their splashdown in either the Atlantic Ocean of Gulf of Mexico.

When the two astronauts return, it will be the first time in 45 years that the world has watched an ocean landing of a spacecraft. The last time was on July 21, 1975, when the crew of the Apollo-Soyuz mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.