SpaceX’s historic Demo-1 mission has come to a successful end. Earlier this morning, the company’s new-generation astronaut-ferrying spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, returned to Earth after a glorious maiden voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).
According to NASA, the Crew Dragon capsule touched down at 8:45 a.m. EST, following a flawless re-entry and descent sequence through our planet’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft departed the ISS in the early hours of the morning, undocking from the space station’s Harmony module at 2:32 a.m. EST. After a six-hour trip through space, the Crew Dragon made it back to Earth and parachuted down to the planet’s surface, making an impeccable ocean landing.
Footage released earlier today by the space agency showed the Crew Dragon spacecraft gracefully gliding through the air after the successful deployment of its drogue parachutes – small parachutes that deploy first in order to pull the larger parachutes from their pack – and its four main parachutes.
“We were all very excited to see re-entry, parachute and drogue deploy, main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly,” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said in a statement.
“It was right on time, the way that we expected it to be. It was beautiful.”
After its elegant, parachute-aided dance through the air, the Crew Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean some 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The capsule was picked up by the SpaceX “Go Searcher” recovery ship, which had been patiently waiting to catch the Dragon and fish it out of the ocean with the help of a giant crane.
.@SpaceX's 'Go Searcher' recovery ship is staged in the Atlantic Ocean awaiting #CrewDragon's splashdown at about 8:45am ET. After splashdown, teams aboard the ship will use a crane to lift the spacecraft out of the ocean. Watch live: https://t.co/mzKW5uDsTi pic.twitter.com/lZk7qFCXwD— NASA (@NASA) March 8, 2019
But before the astronaut pod returned to Earth with a big splash, NASA captured some incredible footage of the Crew Dragon streaking through the sky in a bright fireball during its re-entry in the planet’s atmosphere.
Streaking through Earth's skies, here is @SpaceX's #CrewDragon seen during reentry. The 'Go Searcher' recovery ship is staged in the Atlantic Ocean awaiting #CrewDragon's splashdown at about 8:45am ET. Watch live: https://t.co/mzKW5uDsTi pic.twitter.com/tkoxMOnQhM— NASA (@NASA) March 8, 2019
About an hour later, SpaceX took to Twitter to post a triumphant photo of the Crew Dragon safely aboard the recovery vessel. In the snapshot, the capsule looked a little worse for wear, which is perfectly understandable given that it had just endured a fiery plunge through Earth’s atmosphere.
Crew Dragon is on SpaceX’s recovery vessel—completing the spacecraft’s first test mission! pic.twitter.com/6K0qgnHd4O— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 8, 2019
Today’s milestone wraps up a five-day mission in space designed to test the Crew Dragon ahead of its first manned spaceflight — the Demo-2 mission, currently targeted for July. The capsule took off on its inaugural test flight on March 2, launching from the historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, the Crew Dragon has now become the first commercially built U.S. spacecraft designed for astronauts to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station. In addition, the spacecraft also boasts the title of first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the ISS after successfully latching onto the space station’s Harmony module one day after its March 2 launch.
According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the success of Crew Dragon’s first mission ushers in a “new era” of human space travel. The commercial spacecraft is designed to enable NASA astronauts to hitch a ride to the ISS without relying on the Russian Soyuz capsules — something which hasn’t been achieved since 2011, when NASA retired its Space Shuttle Program.
“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” Bridenstine said in an official statement published on the NASA website.
“I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point,” he added.
Today’s successful splashdown of the @SpaceX Demo-1 #CrewDragon capsule after its mission to @Space_Station marked another milestone in a new era of human spaceflight. @Commercial_Crew is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. pic.twitter.com/9THTVlubiA— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) March 8, 2019