ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station

ISS crew member and plush toy Earth continues work aboard the station

Unlike the cargo capsule, which is grabbed by the space station's huge robotic arm as it flies past, Crew Dragon is created to dock directly to the ISS. If deemed a complete success, the mission would give NASA increased confidence in one of its prime contractors and propel the space agency a step closer to restoring human spaceflight from USA soil.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft disembarked from the International Space Station early Friday, making a journey toward Earth the company hopes will end with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic ocean.

Crew Dragon on the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida prior to launch.

If today's re-entry goes according to plan, an identical Space Crew Dragon capsule will launch an unmanned high-altitude abort test, to test the SuperDracos engines. The toy has since made appearances in several photos with the astronauts aboard the ISS while they completed routine tasks this week.

Completing the test mission on Friday will bring SpaceX's Crew Dragon one step closer to flying humans - and ending the United States' years-long reliance on Russian Federation to fly NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.

ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station 1
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain

The SpaceX CEO earlier commented on the design of Russia's RD-180 liquid-fueled rocket engine, used to power the first stage of the US Atlas V rocket.

Since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has been unable to fly its astronauts. Dock at the International Space Station: check. Boeing received $4.2 billion to build the CST-100 spacecraft and SpaceX received $2.6 billion to build its Dragon V2 spacecraft, or Crew Dragon. NASA hoped their spacecrafts would start flying in 2017. After undocking from the space station, the Crew Dragon will fly for about 5 hours before it begins to slow down in order to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

Crew Dragon also aced a key NASA review ahead of launch, and the space agency hasn't reported any issues with the mission thus far.

The successful landing would be a coup for SpaceX and a relief for Musk, who said he wouldn't be able to relax until the spacecraft had landed safely. NASA explained in a blog post on March 2 that the system is recording "everything an astronaut would experience throughout the mission, such as the forces, acceleration, the protection offered by Crew Dragon's seats, and overall environment".

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