Crew Dragon astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
With Hurricane Isaias threatening Florida’s East Coast, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken are awaiting a go-ahead on plans to undock from the International Space Station Saturday, setting up a fiery plunge to splashdown Sunday, presumably in the Gulf of Mexico, to close out a 64-day flight.
Given the track of the hurricane, a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at one of three approved sites off Florida’s east coast is effectively ruled out, focusing landing plans on the Gulf where four sites are available off Panama City, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Tampa.
Assuming NASA and SpaceX press ahead, a final decision on prime and backup landing sites is not expected until Saturday, based on the latest forecasts and assessments of the Crew Dragon’s health. The preferred splashdown zone is just south of Panama City.
“We look forward to the weather forecasts that are coming out daily at this point, and they’ll even get more frequent as we get closer to the actual splashdown,” Behnken told reporters in an orbital news conference Friday.
“We have confidence that the teams on the ground are, of course, watching that ...