The SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has safely returned to Earth after nearly one week at the International Space Station. The successful trip marks a pivotal moment for the future of space travel. The Crew Dragon is the first capsule made by a private company, as opposed to spaceships built by NASA, that is designed to carry humans into space and been successfully launched into space.
The Crew Dragon is not currently carrying any astronauts. The successful splashdown means SpaceX will likely launch humans into space very soon. The company plans to send astronauts onboard the Crew Dragon as early as this summer.
NASA TV is streaming live coverage of the return trip. The capsule undocked from the International Space Station at 2:31 a.m. EST. The splash down in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida happened right on time at 8:45 a.m. EST.
The Flight Home Has Been Described as the Toughest Part of the Maiden Voyage
Returning to Earth is described as the toughest part of the mission. After undocking from the space station, the Crew Dragon flew for about 5 hours before it began to slow down in order to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told Space.com that he had been most concerned about the parachute system operating smoothly. The Crew Dragon is equipped with eight escape engines in case of an emergency. This extra safety precaution means the capsule has a more asymmetrical shape than the Cargo Dragon ship, which has more of a cone shape and has completed 16 missions to the space station. Musk said, “That could potentially cause a roll instability on re-entry. I think it’s unlikely; we’ve run simulations a thousand times. But this is a possibility.”
But as the live stream showed, the parachute system deployed as it had been intended and the Crew Dragon landed safely in the Atlantic.
The Dummy Named ‘Ripley’ is Equipped With Sensors in Order to Test Whether the Flight is Safe For Humans
Inside the Crew Dragon, you’ll see the shape of a person sitting there. But don’t worry– she’s a dummy. “Ripley” is the sole passenger on this maiden mission and she has a very important job.
Ripley has sensors attached to her neck, head and spine. Scientists are using this technology to analyze whether the trip is safe for humans. NASA explained in a blog post on March 2 that the system is recording “everything an astronaut would experience throughout the mission, such as the forces, acceleration, the protection offered by Crew Dragon’s seats, and overall environment.”
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Delivered Supplies to the Space Statin
The main goal of the Crew Dragon mission was to test whether the capsule can safely deliver astronauts to and from the International Space Station. NASA retired its own space shuttle in 2011 that could fly astronauts. The private sector’s ability to do this has been viewed as a crucial next step in space exploration.
But the capsule was also responsible for delivering supplies to the International Space Station. It carried approximately 400 pounds of equipment, food and other supplies the astronauts need in order to continue their work.
There are currently three astronauts on board the space station: Anne C. McClain from Spokane, Washington; station commander Oleg Kononenko from Russian; and David Saint-Jacques from Canada.
They will be joined by three more crew members on March 14: NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin.