Missouri astronaut prepares to make his way back to Earth

Weather permitting, NASA astronaut Bob Behnken and fellow spaceman Doug Hurley are scheduled to undock Saturday evening at the International Space Station and begin their historic journey back home. Their mission marks the first time in U.S. history that a commercial astronaut crew has gone to space and the first human space flight from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

From left: Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken

Behnken, a native of St. Louis County and Washington University grad, rocketed into space two months ago on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft they named “Endeavour”.

The National Hurricane Center says Florida remains in the path of Hurricane Isaias and the storm is expected to move past Cape Canaveral. Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to splash down in their capsule off the coast of Florida around 2:48 p.m. Sunday. It will be the first water landing of astronauts since the last Apollo mission in 1975.

“NASA teams will continue to closely a monitor Tropical Storm Isaias and evaluate impacts to weather around the Florida peninsula, including the potential splashdown sites in the Gulf of Mexico and along the state’s Atlantic coast,” NASA says. “NASA and SpaceX will make a decision on a primary splashdown target approximately 6 hours before undocking Saturday.”

If the mission is a go, two boats will arrive immediately after splashdown to get the capsule and open the hatch for Behnken and Hurley.

Behnken has been on two other space missions. He is also a flight test pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Southern Missouri native and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins of Richland will be part of a mission later this year to the International Space Station after Behnken returns.

Behnken’s wife, Megan, will also be heading to the International Space Station next spring. NASA has chosen her to pilot the same spaceship as the one her husband is returning in.

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