SpaceX splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, completes historic crew capsule mission

Christopher Davidson
March 9, 2019

Crew Dragon departs ISS Crew Dragon backs away from the International Space Station during its Demo-1 mission, following undocking on 8 March at 02:32 EST. The mission netted the Crew Dragon several "firsts" for a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft including becoming the first to launch from American soil on a mission to the ISS, first to dock at the ISS, and first to dock autonomously. It's aiming for a morning splashdown in the Atlantic off Florida's coast, the final hurdle of the six-day test flight. Apollo 9 - which orbited Earth in preparation for the moon landings - splashed down near the Bahamas on March 13, 1969. Demo-2 will be the first crewed test flight aboard the Crew Dragon. The demonstration mission - which carried no humans but a dummy covered in sensors - is the first of at least one more test that NASA will use to determine if the Dragon capsule passes the space agency's rigid safety standards. The capsule, which deployed its parachutes to land in the water, was safely retrieved by SpaceX's Go Searcher recovery ship.

"Just incredible. I can't believe how well the whole mission has gone" with all major milestones met, said Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management.

If deemed a complete success, the mission would give Nasa increased confidence in one of its prime contractors and propel the space agency a step closer to restoring human spaceflight from U.S. soil.

Still more parachute tests are planned before the scheduled crew launch, in the hope both of refining the technology and easing industry and government jitters. According to Benjamin Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, "Everything happened just perfectly, right on time the way that we expected it to".

"This is an awesome achievement in American history", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on NASA TV, per the New York Times.

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Also aboard Crew Dragon was a "zero-g indicator", or a plush globe otherwise known as Little Earth, that was put on board to demonstrate when Crew Dragon entered microgravity.

Assuming a detailed post-flight inspection and data analysis confirm the capsule's apparently problem-free performance, NASA will be a major step closer to launching two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule this summer, the first flight of a USA crew from American soil since the shuttle made its final flight in 2011. He found the capsule "very slick" and called it business class. After five days docked at the Station, Crew Dragon disembarked and returned to Earth. Now, commercial providers - specifically SpaceX and Boeing - are set to fulfill the role, while offering considerably cheaper seats ($58 million per seat rather than $81 million).

In the past few years, SpaceX has emerged as a preeminent builder of rockets and orbital spacecraft.

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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