Earth hitting the treadmill with NASA astronaut Anne Mc Clain | Image credit NASA Anne McClain
08 March, 2019, 16:21
A huge round of applause and cheers erupted at SpaceX mission control in California as the capsule hit the water. Apollo 9 splashed down near the Bahamas on March 13, 1969.
The spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida March 2, docking with the station 27 hours later after a problem-free approach.
Inside the Crew Dragon, you'll see the shape of a person sitting there. At 11:32 p.m. PT., it released a set of hooks from the ISS and slowly drifted away from the space laboratory with two short thruster firings. SpaceX engineers dubbed the dummy Ripley, a nod to a character in the 1979 film Alien.
The Crew Dragon drifts away from the ISS.
The main goal of the Crew Dragon mission was to test whether the capsule can safely deliver astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That didn't happen, and the company proved the Crew Dragon is ready for the next step.
After a five-day mission on the orbital outpost, Crew Dragon autonomously detached about 2:30 a.m EST (0730 GMT) on Friday and sped back to earth reaching hypersonic speeds before an 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 GMT) splash-down in the Atlantic, about 200 miles off the Florida coast.
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain
It's biggest challenge was yet to come: Atmospheric re-entry.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told Space.com that he is most concerned about the parachute system operating smoothly.
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. 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". The capsule is SpaceX's first that is created to carry humans.
McClain said "it won't be long" before astronauts start riding SpaceX's Crew Dragon as well as Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, another space taxi that's being developed for NASA's use. Eastern Friday, fired its engine to slow down and barreled through the thickening atmosphere on its fiery return to Earth. The Starliner's first crewed flight would follow, in August or later.
There are now three astronauts on board the space station: Anne C. McClain from Spokane, Washington; station commander Oleg Kononenko from Russian; and David Saint-Jacques from Canada. It quickly moved away from the station as in preparation for its return to Earth.
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