Ho-Hum. More Boring Success for SpaceX as Crew Dragon Splashes Down

Wednesday, 13 Mar, 2019

Photo: NASA/Norah MoranCrew Dragon spacecraft on it's way back to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station at 2:32 am EST on 8 March 2019.

After launching atop a Falcon 9 rocket and traveling to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this week, the spacecraft has now returned to Earth.

The SpaceX capsule passed a crucial test on March 3, when the commercial spacecraft docked at the International Space Station.

The successful test and splashdown is "an wonderful achievement in American history", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who called the SpaceX flight the "dawning of a new era in American human space flight". The capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at around 5:45 a.m. Friday.

But Elon Musk's space exploration company is one step ahead of Boeing, as it will get key data from this demo mission to make final adjustments ahead of its inaugural crewed flight.

Almost five days later, astronauts at the Space Station closed the hatch on the capsule, according to NASA.

The crew of the GO Searcher, a SpaceX ship rigged to recover returning crew capsules, planned to haul the spacecraft aboard and return it to Port Canaveral for detailed post-flight inspections.

Capsules have no wings and fall to the earth, their descent slowed only by parachutes - much like the Russian Soyuz craft, which lands in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The past week's flight marked the first-ever Crew Dragon space trip, known as Demonstration Mission 1 or DM-1.

The first-of-a-kind mission brought 400 pounds 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 goal for SpaceX and others competing in the new space race, such as Boeing with the CST-100 Starliner, is to perform manned missions to outer space for NASA and propel the government agency to spaceflight capabilities again.

As Dragon parachuted down to Earth, it deployed four parachutes, which SpaceX commentators called "healthy parachutes".

But this all ended with the introduction of the Space Shuttle program in the 1980s.

The U.S. has relied on Russian Federation to launch its astronauts since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended.

After dropping behind and below the lab, the Crew Dragon adjusted its orbit and jettisoned its empty trunk section, an unpressurized cargo compartment behind the crew compartment, to set the stage for entry.

"The teams have just done an awesome job - both the Space X and the Nasa teams jointly". "We want to make sure that everything is flawless". They are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

After the program was retired, the USA government, under then president Barack Obama, turned toward SpaceX and Boeing to develop a new way to ferry its crews, paying the firms for their services.

In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft to launch US astronauts.