SpaceX's Historic Crew Dragon Mission Successfully Ends As Capsule Lands Safely

Cristina Cross
March 9, 2019

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft opens its nose cone before docking with the International Space Station on March 3. This was the first time in fifty years that an astronaut capsule landed in the Atlantic Ocean and SpaceX's first orbital test mission.

It represents the first private space mission to the ISS, as well as the first time a space vessel capable of carrying people was launched by the U.S. in eight years.

The seven-seat capsule brought its "crew" of one test dummy back to Earth in the same way that American astronauts returned to the planet in the Apollo era in the 1960s and 1970s, before the 1981-2011 Space Shuttle Program. Both SpaceX and Boeing have been working hard to meet that demand, and previous year it seemed like Boeing's Starliner would beat the Crew Dragon to its delivery date.

The capsule's splashdown was aided by SpaceX's recovery vessel "Go Searcher", a ship equipped to pluck it from amidst the roiling ocean waves and carry it back to shore. This part of that program launched the SpaceX Crew Dragon for the first time. He said such progress was "leading to a day where we are launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

Meanwhile, Boeing is gearing up for its first unmanned test following a delay due to a fuel leak in its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The yells then turned into roars of cheering applause after Crew Dragon finally hit the water safely and well within sight of its recovery boats off the Florida coast.

A SpaceX rocket launched the 16-foot-tall capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. The astronauts have been showing the Earth buddy around the space station.

Dragon's owner, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk, had previously expressed some anxiety about how the capsule would cope with re-entry, given that the vehicle's backshell, or heatshield, has a somewhat irregular shape that could lead to a roll instability at hypersonic speeds.

Astronauts have not launched from Florida for eight years, and NASA is eager to end the drought and reduce its costly dependence on Russian Federation for space station trips.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was ecstatic following splashdown.

Last Sunday, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques was the first to enter the Dragon when it arrived and the last to leave.

History made: Crew Dragon was the first spacecraft to dock at the space station's new worldwide docking adapter, installed in the Harmony module by astronauts in August 2016.

For now, SpaceX wins the day - and continue to forge a path between the United States and the International Space Station.

This final phase of the Demo-1 mission was perhaps the biggest test of Crew Dragon's new build. He found it "very slick" and called it business class.

That possibility never became reality - at least not this time - partly because Musk wasn't being hyperbolic about those thousand simulations, which SpaceX and NASA exhaustively conducted via computer models.

The spaceship carried 180kg of supplies and test equipment, including a crash test dummy named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.

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