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SpaceX's Crew Dragon Astronauts Expected To Begin Return Trip To Earth Saturday

HAWTHORNE (CBSLA) — Two astronauts who were part of a historic launch to the International Space Station are expected to come home – as long as the weather cooperates.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have been aboard the ISS since May 31, when they blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Hawthorne-based SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft.

It marked the first man-launch from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

Behnken and Hurley are expected to go back inside the Crew Dragon Saturday afternoon to begin their 19-hour journey back to Earth.

The spacecraft is expected to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at 11:48 a.m. local time Sunday, according to SpaceX.

However, mission controllers are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Isaias to determine if that will affect the safety of the landing.

"We're watching (forecasts) closely, mostly to maintain awareness and see the trends, and understand what the timeline would be if our recovery out of the water, for example, was delayed a little bit,'' Behnken said Friday from the space station during a NASA news briefing. "But we have confidence that the teams on the ground are of course watching that much more closely than we are."

"We don't control the weather, and we know we can stay up here longer there's more chow, and I know the space station program has more work that we can do for the (principal investigators) and other folks who have sent science up to the space station,'' he said.

If things go well with this mission, SpaceX plans to move ahead with Crew Dragon's first "operational mission" to launch four astronauts -- Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi -- to the space station, in late September.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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