Astronauts who had arrived at the International Space Station in April for a long period of time began their return voyage on Monday, Dragon capsule carrying the SpaceX crew separated from the orbiting laboratory for a journey back to Earth.
In the NASA webcast, the video of the process carried live shows astronauts strapped in to cabin wearing their white flight suits and helmet. As planned, at 2 PM Eastern time (1900 GMT) the Dragon vehicle named Endeavour unlocked from the space station.
Auto-operation by the spacecraft for a 90-minute flyover around the space station was programmed earlier.
This would allow the astronauts to take some pictures for research purposes of the orbiting outpost, circling the globes some 400 km (250 miles) high.
After this, the rocket thruster will fire to bring back the astronauts to Earth.
The Endeavour was planned to parachute into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast on Monday around 10:30 PM (0330 GMT Tuesday ).
This would be done in eight hours of flight time, including the fiery re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere.
As the capsule plunges through the Earth’s atmosphere, the frictional heat generated would send the temperature outside the vehicle to around 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit ( 1,927 degrees Celsius).
A special recovery team standing by in the Gulf would pick the capsule and the crew at sea.
The crew on the mission comprises of two astronauts from NASA, Shane Kimbrough, aged 54, is the mission commander, and Megan McArthur, aged 50, is the pilot.
The two others consist of Akihiko Hoshide, aged 52, a Japanese astronaut, and Thomas Pesquet, aged 43, a French engineer and mission specialist from the European Space Agency.
On 23 April, the crew was lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; they were lofted to orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon Rocket 9.
These astronauts are the third crew launched by NASA under its public-private partnership with SpaceX company which was founded by investor and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. He also founded Tesla Inc., which is an electric car maker company.
“Crew 2” is the name given to the returning team as this is the second batch sent by NASA aboard the SpaceX capsule.