SpaceX Crew Dragon craft departs ISS for Earth return

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft shoved off from the International Space Station on Saturday with two US astronauts on board , beginning their journey back to Earth despite a storm threatening Florida .

NASA footage showed the capsule drifting slowly away from the ISS in the darkness of space , ending a two month stay for the first US astronauts to reach the orbiting lab on an American spacecraft in nearly a decade .

“ And they are off !” the US space agency tweeted , with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken set to splash down Sunday.

“(They ) will spend one more night in space prior to returning to their homeland , Earth , ” NASA tweeted .

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Their proposed splash- down sites are off the coast of western Florida ’ s panhandle , while tropical storm Isaias is headed toward the state ’ s east coast .

NASA opted to go ahead with bringing the pair home despite the threat of Isaias , which was downgraded to a tropical storm from a hurricane on Saturday .

The agency later added the capsule was confirmed to be “ on a safe trajectory . ”

“ Now is the entry , descent and splashdown phase after we undock , hopefully a little bit later today , ” Hurley said in a farewell ceremony aboard the ISS that was broadcast on NASA TV .

“ The teams are working really hard , especially with the dynamics of the weather over the next few days around Florida , ” he said .

Earlier , during the ISS ceremony , Behnken said that “ the hardest part was getting us launched . But the most important part is bringing us home . ”

Addressing his son and Hurley ’ s son, he held up a toy dinosaur that the children chose to send on the mission and said : “

Tremor The Apatosaurus is headed home soon and he ’ ll be with your dads . ”

Behnken later tweeted : “All my bags are packed, I’ m ready to go . ”

– ‘ Exciting day’ – Mission chief Chris Cassidy called it an “ exciting day ” and hailed the importance of having a new means to transport astronauts .

The mission , which blasted off May 30 , marked the first time a crewed spaceship had launched into orbit from American soil since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended .

It was also the first time a private company has flown to the ISS carrying astronauts .

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The US has paid SpaceX and aerospace giant Boeing a total of about $ 7 billion for their “ space taxi” contracts.

But Boeing’ s program has floundered badly after a failed test run late last year , which left SpaceX, a company founded only in 2002, as clear frontrunner .

For the past nine years, US astronauts traveled exclusively on Russian Soyuz rockets , for a price of around $ 80 million per seat.

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