SKY-WATCHERS will have their final chance to spot the International Space Station as it soars over the US and UK this evening.
The enormous orbiting lab, which is about the size of a football field, is so big and bright that you'll be able to spot it with the naked eye.
The International Space Station (ISS) has a pair of new crew members.
Working with Nasa, California firm SpaceX successfully fired two astronauts there from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Saturday 30 May.
Spacefarers Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley soared into the atmosphere before boarding the ISS 19 hours later, on Sunday 31 May.
The flight marked the first time astronauts had flown using a privately-built rocket and the first manned launch from US soil since 2011.
Now the duo are set to return to Earth with splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico tonight.
What time will the ISS appear tonight?
The ISS will appear above the UK at roughly 9.49pm BST, according to Nasa's ISS-tracker.
Look out for a bright star-like object in the sky moving fairly quickly from the west.
You will have to be quick as Nasa's tracker suggests it will only be visible for less than one minute.
What is the ISS?
Here's what you need to know about the International Space Station…
- The International Space Station, often abbreviated to ISS, is a large space craft that orbits Earth and houses astronauts who go up there to complete scientific missions
- Many countries worked together to build it and they work together to use it
- It is made up of many pieces, which astronauts had to send up individually on rockets and put together from 1998 to 2000
- Ever since the year 2000, people have lived on the ISS
- Nasa uses the station to learn about living and working in space
- It is approximately 250 miles above Earth and orbits around the planet just like a satellite
- Living inside the ISS is said to be like living inside a big house with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gym, lots of science labs and a big bay window for viewing Earth
Look out for it just above the horizon (10 degrees) in the southwest.
It goes without saying that your best chance of catching the craft requires clear skies and as little light around you as possible.
Try not to stare at your phone too much and turn off outside lights to dampen the effects of light pollution.
How to track the ISS in real-time
Not sure where to look? Your phone's got you covered.
There are a number of stargazing apps you can use to follow the path of satellites and other space objects.
On the Apple App Store, we'd recommend Night Sky, which is free and helps you find all kinds of celestial wonders.
For Android fans, Satellite Tracker should do the trick (it's also available on iPhone).
Simply head outside at the scheduled time for an ISS flyby, load up one of the apps and you should be able to spot them.
For upcoming ISS passes, you can visit Nasa's SpotTheStation website and enter your location.
Nasa SpaceX launch – what was it and why was it important?
For years, Nasa sent astronauts into space by piggybacking on launches of Russian Soyuz rockets from an air base in Kazakhstan.
The US space agency last fired one of its own astronauts into space in 2011.
Nasa retired its astronaut-carrying space shuttles that year to make way for a new space exploration program aimed at sending man to asteroids and other deep-space targets.
However, multiple delays to its development schedule have left the space agency without a way to carry out manned space flights for years.
Nasa hopes to fill the gap with spacecraft launched by private companies such as SpaceX, owned by Musk, and Blue Origin, run by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.
Nasa astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley made their way to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre on May 30.
The ultimate aim of the mission was to dock a SpaceX craft containing the astronauts on the International Space Station.b
They were ferried to the spacecraft on its launchpad in Florida inside a Tesla Model X electric car sporting the Nasa logo.
That's because billionaire SpaceX boss Elon Musk is also CEO of Tesla.
Hurley and Behnken took a special elevator up 230ft to a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop the awaiting rocket.
The mission, dubbed Demo-2, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:23pm BST (3:23 pm ET) on May 30.
When the countdown hit zero, the rocket blasted into space – carrying astronauts into orbit from US soil for the first time since 2011.
Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon capsule carrying Hurley and Behnken separated from the rocket booster.
As is customary for SpaceX flights, the booster turned around and return to Earth so it could be refurbished and used on a future mission.
"Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station," Nasa said ahead of the launch.
"Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things."
About 19 hours after launch, Crew Dragon was in position to dock with the space station.
It can do this automatically but astronauts have the option to take control themselves if something goes wrong.
"After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew," Nasa continued.
"They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew."
The Crew Dragon capsule will remain docked on the ISS until it's needed to take astronauts back to Earth.
The return flight is tonight. The astronauts have already undocked and Dragon has performed a series depature burns to line up with its landing ground.
After a trunk jettison, deorbit burn and re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, it will release its parachutes and prepare for splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT (or 7.48pm in the UK)..
In other news, the Tropical Storm Isaias is threatening the astronaut's return to Florida.
And, could you fly Elon Musk’s SpaceX ship? Try this free simulator to find out.
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