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SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean

08 March 2019

The craft's splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean is expected around 8:45 a.m. ET, after it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.

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. It's aiming for a morning splashdown in the Atlantic off Florida's coast, the final hurdle of the six-day test flight.

Once the Dragon reached a safe distance, NASA's Mission Control in Houston radioed its congratulations to SpaceX's team, the station's crew and partners around the world.

But like the launch, the docking went off without a hitch, and soon the three astronauts on board the station - NASA's Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko of Russian Federation, and Canada's David Saint-Jacques - were able to check out the first commercial space vehicle designed for human space flight ever to dock with the station.

"We measure the responses on the human body, obviously, and measure the environment", SpaceX Vice President of Mission Assurance Koenigsmann said before the launch.

"We want to take a moment to recognize this milestone accomplishment that marks the inaugural mission of the commercial crew program", she said.

ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station 1
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain

It marks the end of a highly successful and long-awaited debut of a crew-capable vehicle for the United States, almost eight years after the last Space Shuttle touched down.

In 2014, NASA awarded contracts worth a combined $6.8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing to build spacecraft capable of carrying NASA's astronauts to the orbiting laboratory 250 miles above Earth. 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 US soil. When the capsule returns, it will bring back a trove of scientific samples from research projects, along with other equipment. I think it's unlikely; we've run simulations a thousand times.

The latest images of Earth palling around with the Expedition 58 crew has her doing some station maintenance, keeping up with her schedule and hitting the gym with McClain.

Some issues still need to be resolved before that crewed mission. The data from the demonstration-1 flight is part of the process to secure certification from NASA to fly crew. (A test dummy named Ripley was on board.) The nearly-week long test flight culminated when the spacecraft disembarked from the station about 1:15 a.m. Few people would be surprised if Demo-2 was launched later than July.

Now it's clear that SpaceX is comfortably in the lead, and NASA expects manned missions using Crew Dragon to commence sooner rather than later. NASA hoped their spacecrafts would start flying in 2017.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean