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

This still image taken from NASA TV shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely aboard the company's recovery vessel following splashdown

This still image taken from NASA TV shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely aboard the company's recovery vessel following splashdown

In truth, SpaceX absolutely nailed it, and the safe splashdown of the vehicle in the Atlantic Ocean just moments ago was perhaps its most impressive feat yet. Once there, the capsule will undergo processing at Kennedy Space Center for another important test, an in-flight abort mission to ensure that the spacecraft can quickly push itself away from the rocket in case of an emergency.

The Crew Dragon made history last week when SpaceX launched the first spacecraft under NASA's commercial crew program.

First autonomous docking of a US spacecraft to the International Space Station.

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.

Minutes before splash-down, Crew Dragon deployed its four parachutes, easing some concerns about functionality that both NASA and SpaceX had before the landing.

She added that she and the rest of the panel were pleased that NASA was taking steps, such as buying two additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos, to alleviate any perceived schedule pressure on the commercial crew program.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft proved the private space company is capable of safely launching and carrying astronauts from Earth to the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon is not now carrying any astronauts. The capsule then undocked from the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. Friday after a five-day stay. Five hours later, the capsule will leave Earth orbit and re-enter the atmosphere, testing its heat shield.

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In this image from video made available by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is hoisted onto a ship in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast after it returned from a mission to the International Space Station, March 8, 2019.

Boeing plans to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as next month and with astronauts possibly in August.

The reusability of SpaceX's Dragon is one of its selling points, and is also the reason Friday morning's splashdown happened in the Atlantic Ocean, rather than the calmer and bigger Pacific.

"I don't think we saw really anything in the mission so far - we've got to do the data reviews - that would preclude us from having a crewed mission later this year", Stich said.

Leading up to the re-entry, Musk had said he was anxious about whether the spacecraft would end up in an uncontrollable spin.

The flight is a milestone for Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as they attempt to end USA dependence on Russian Federation for astronaut shuttles to the space station.

But after this week's SpaceX flight, if post-mission review determines the flight had no issues, we could see astronauts climb aboard the Crew Dragon by the end of the year. Following Saturday's launch, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, said that he was "100 percent confident" crew would launch this year.

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