SpaceX capsule back on Earth, paving way for new manned flights

SpaceX capsule back on Earth, paving way for new manned flights

The epic Demo-1 mission began on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at 2:49 a.m. EST, when a Space X Falcon 9 rocket fired off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with a Crew Dragon spacecraft in tow.

After hours of suspense, the Dragon spacecraft touched down at 8:45 am (1345 GMT) some 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of the USA state of Florida.

"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed!" the SpaceX account tweeted along with an image of the capsule showing its four main white and orange parachutes deployed as two boats sped toward it.

A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX's systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission.

"This really is an American achievement that spans many generations of NASA administrators and over a decade of work", said current Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Pending the analysis of flight data, everything indicated that SpaceX - founded in 2002 by Elon Musk - had passed its test from beginning to end, a result that drew widespread praise.

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The re-entry into Earth's atmosphere tested the vehicle's heat shield for the first time, and Musk had previously said that the phase was "probably my biggest concern".

SpaceX has a new all-star crew member, though it's anything but human: It's a $20 plush-toy planet that astronauts call "Little Earth" or "Earthy".

The space station's three-member crew greeted the capsule last Sunday, with USA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques entering Crew Dragon's cabin to carry out air quality tests and inspections.

Called Crew Dragon, the vehicle landed in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, following a six-day mission in orbit. "Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight", said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Boeing plans to test an uncrewed mission on its Starliner spacecraft in early April.

The goal of this mission was to test that the capsule's in-flight systems would perform as intended and if it could dock with the ISS by itself, among other things, all of which would ensure that the capsule would be capable of carrying a human crew in the near future.

The last generation of United States spacecraft, the space shuttles, landed like airplanes. For now, Russian Federation will continue to be the only country taking humans to the ISS.

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