SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule Ends First Test Mission With Successful Ocean Splash

Elon Musk's SpaceX 'Crew Dragon' makes successful landing

The mission began March 2, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of "firsts" in less than a week.

NASA resumed talks with Russia's space agency Roscosmos in February seeking two additional Soyuz seats for 2020 to maintain a US presence on the space station.

"Today's successful, splashdown of the SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon capsule after its mission to the ISS marked another milestone in a new era of human spaceflight", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a tweet.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has undocked from the International Space Station.

First use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Crew Dragon, and also will be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA's future mission to the Moon. Shuttles took American astronauts to space from 1981 to 2011, but their cost proved prohibitive, while two of the original four craft had catastrophic accidents, killing 14 crew members.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft's return journey and ocean splashdown.

Ripley dummy astronaut in the Crew Dragon during descent

The U.S. relies on Russian Federation to launch astronauts to the space station, at a cost of about $80 million per ticket. "Beautiful parachute deployment", said Benji Reed, the director of crew mission management at SpaceX. From the images we can see that the outer shell of the craft has suffered burns upon its re-entry into the atmosphere.

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

While the Little Earth stayed with the astronauts on the ISS, the Crew Dragon had to go - carrying around 330lbs worth of experiment results and gear, Space X's Crew Dragon capsule got ready to return back to Earth for the final stage of its mission.

The mission carried 400 pounds (180 kg) of test equipment to the space station, including a dummy named Ripley outfitted with sensors around its head, neck, and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human.

The Crew Dragon during atmospheric re-entry.

Only a test dummy was aboard for the test, but the first manned flight aboard Dragon is scheduled for July with two astronauts - a date that could be postponed until later this year. "Not exactly time to fully exhale, but another big milestone behind us", said Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA who took part in awarding the initial contracts to SpaceX. "I'm, personally, very anxious to hear how Ripley is feeling after they pull her out of the capsule and get her onto the recovery vehicle".

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