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

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

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 8 - An unmanned capsule from Elon Musk's SpaceX splashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, successfully completing a mission crucial to NASA's long-delayed quest to resume human space flight from U.S. soil later this year.

It marks the first time in 50 years that a capsule designed for astronauts returned from space by plopping into the Atlantic.

Due to the scuttling of the NASA Space Shuttle Program in 2011, only Russian rockets are in use.

With the landing, Crew Dragon's six-day long mission is complete but there's still work to do. "Beautiful parachute deployment", said Benji Reed, the director of crew mission management at SpaceX. "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.

What made the reentry so flawless was that SpaceX gave a time of 8:45 a.m. EST as an estimate for when the vehicle would be back on the surface.

SpaceX's uncrewed mission began early Saturday, when its Falcon 9 rocket blasted off in the predawn darkness from a historic launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the crew of Apollo 11 began their journey to the lunar surface.

The spaceship carried 180kg of supplies and test equipment, including a crash test dummy named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.

It was only about a week ago that SpaceX launched the Crew Dragon, the company's first crew-capable spacecraft, towards the International Space Station.

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SpaceX employees cheered and applauded at company headquarters near Los Angeles when the Dragon's red and white parachutes popped open.

To say that the Crew Dragon did well would be a huge understatement. But this test flight's success, along with its data, should allow SpaceX and NASA to close out those systems in the coming months. Boeing is expected to test their first flight in April and may send astronauts into space as early as August 2019.

Dragon also marks a return to a "vintage" format: it is the first U.S. capsule since the pioneering Apollo program.

The spacecraft of USA private spaceflight company SpaceX undocked from the ISS at 2:32 a.m. By 13:45 UTC the Crew Dragon was bobbing around in the ocean, awaiting collection by the recovery vessel "Go Searcher" stationed nearby.

The successful test mission marked an important moment for the US space program's plans to restart manned space flights.

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

The crewless mission has been planned in collaboration with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which aims at ending NASA's reliance on the Russian space program to shuttle astronauts to the ISS.

The Dragon is outfitted with abort thrusters that make the spacecraft asymmetrical, which he said "could potentially cause a roll".

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