SpaceX crew capsule Dragon heads back to Earth from space station


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 US crew from American soil since the shuttle made its final flight in 2011. Indeed, almost all orbital missions are bookended by danger, with the fiery liftoff at the beginning and the high-dive fall at the end easily presenting the greatest opportunities for disaster. The past week's flight marked the first-ever Crew Dragon space trip, known as Demonstration Mission 1 or DM-1. The biggest difference is at the base of the vehicle - specifically, the heat shield that protects the ship from the more than 3,000º F fires of reentry. The commercial companies design the spacecraft themselves, in accordance with requirements set out by NASA.

What now: Recovery crews are in place and Crew Dragon will be loaded onto the recovery ship.

Astronauts used to land in the ocean via parachutes for the Gemini and Apollo missions.

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

The astronauts have begun procedures ahead of Crew Dragon's undocking at 2:31 a.m. Friday. As a result, when SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted a picture of its inclusion, the company was inundated with orders completely depleting their available stock. "We've run simulations a thousand times, but this is a possibility".

Musk has also faced trouble at SpaceX. This mission carried out a number of firsts.

Parachutes were deployed to slow the capsule's descent into the sea.

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Government officials still have safety concerns about both spacecrafts, according to a recent Reuters report and documents from NASA's safety advisory panel, all of which will need to be resolved before they can fly humans. "I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point". "It has to be 100 percent foolproof".

NASA will now spend the next few weeks reviewing data to ensure that its initial impression is correct, first by poring over data from the launch and then sensor data from the on-board mannequin, Ripley, as well as data from the vehicle itself during its orbital phase and re-entry.

Little Earth and the new supplies stayed on the space station, while Ripley and about 300 pounds of return cargo, including a broken spacesuit part, headed back home on Crew Dragon. That confidence was shaken, however, during an August 2018 SpaceX cargo mission, when some unexpected - and thus far undisclosed - problems occurred with the parachutes. "I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week".

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The timeline for the first flight of Boeing's Starliner is not as clear. "And will the system guide Dragon 2 to the right location and splashdown safely?" he asked.

Friday morning's splashdown was the final hurdle of SpaceX's test flight.

There is a certain circularity to an Atlantic return.

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The demonstration flight, whose lone occupant is a test dummy named Ripley, is a crucial step in Nasa's delayed quest to resume human space flight from the U.S. this year.