SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule completed its NASA demonstration mission on Friday with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, paving the way for the resumption of manned space flights from the US. After hours of suspense, the Crew Dragon touched down in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 am some 230 miles (370 kilometres) off the coast of the US state of Florida.
The 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. NASA TV footage showed the capsule gently drifting into the ocean, its decent slowed by its four main orange and white parachutes, which folded into the water around it as boats sped toward the site.
SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule: Timeline of events
March 2: Launched on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dragon docked at ISS the following day before successfully undocking Friday some 250 miles over Sudan. On NASA TV, it looked like a slow-motion ballet, even though the two craft were actually orbiting Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.
The spacecraft arrived at the station on March 3. The Demo-1 Crew Dragon delivered about 400 lbs. (181 kilograms) of supplies and gear for the station crew, NASA officials said. SpaceX employees who watched the landing at company headquarters in California cheered when the red and white parachutes opened to lower Crew Dragon into the water.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule on Friday returned home from its historic six-day test flight. The final burn lasted about 15 minutes and helped the vehicle safely slice back through the Earth's thick atmosphere while still traveling thousands of miles per hour. A recovery ship called Go Searcher, waited at sea to use a large crane to haul the capsule out of the water. The ship is also equipped with medical quarters and a helicopter pad so that, when the crew is involved, it's ready for emergencies.