Astronaut Col. Douglas G. Hurley, who has spent treasured time in the Thousand Islands area, is scheduled to return to Earth on Sunday aboard his dragon.

On May 30, Col. Hurley and Robert Behnken shot into orbit on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission is the final Crew Dragon test for SpaceX, a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to eventually enable the colonization of Mars.

The “Demo-2” mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Dragon “Endeavour” docked with the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX have targeted 7:34 p.m. Saturday for undocking of the Endeavour spacecraft from the space station and 2:42 p.m. Sunday for splashdown, which will be the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

The last U.S. space mission “splashdown” was in July of 1975 after an American Apollo module docked with a Russian Soyuz capsule.

NASA will provide live coverage of activities leading up to, during, and following the return of Endeavour. Coverage on NASA TV and the agency’s website will begin at 9:10 a.m. Saturday with a short farewell ceremony on the station and resume at 5:15 p.m., with departure preparations through splashdown and recovery at one of seven targeted water landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.

Col. Hurley is the son of Harvey C. and A. Sherry Hurley of Newark Valley, Tioga County. Three years ago, the couple sold West Winds Motel and Cottages, Clayton, to Dean and Jolene M. Hurley. Dean is the only sibling of Douglas Hurley.

“We hunted together and we grew up going to the Thousand Islands and spending time there together. He was always a very focused person,” Dean told the Times in May.

SpaceX personnel will be on location to recover the capsule from the water on Sunday. Two recovery ships, the Go Searcher and the Go Navigator, split locations between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Each ship has more than 40 personnel from SpaceX and NASA, made up of spacecraft engineers, trained water recovery experts, medical professionals, the ship’s crew, NASA cargo experts, and others to assist in the recovery.

The main recovery vessel will hoist the Endeavour capsule onto its main deck. Once the capsule is on the recovery vessel, it will be moved to a stable location for the hatch to be opened for waiting medical professionals to conduct initial checks and assist the two astronauts out of the Dragon Endeavour.

Dragon Endeavour will be returned back to the SpaceX’s “Dragon Lair” in Florida for inspection and processing.

The first operational Crew Dragon mission is scheduled for launch late this summer or early fall.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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