"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", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
About 300 pounds of cargo, including unneeded hardware and scientific samples, were packed aboard the Dragon for the return trip.
The Crew Dragon never loses its built-in escape rockets, which eliminates that danger and simplifies the system overall. The final burn lasted about 15 minutes and helped the vehicle safely slice back through the Earth's thick atmosphere while still traveling thousands of miles per hour. After a half-hour freefall, the spacecraft slammed into the top of the thick lower atmosphere at a velocity of almost five miles per second.
It had a heat-shield to protect it from the high temperatures of re-entry. The craft's splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean is expected around 8:45 a.m. ET, after it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.
"We have a significant amount of training we need to go through that will walk through all the various phases of flight", Behnken said of the coming months. The biggest concern would be around if the parachutes deploy correctly and then, if the system can guide Dragon to the right location and splashdown safely?
SpaceX employees who watched the landing at company headquarters in California cheered when the red and white parachutes opened to lower Crew Dragon into the water.
What made the reentry so ideal 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.
While Crew Dragon will be recovered from the ocean this time, the spacecraft was designed with the ability to make powered landings using its four side-mounted "Super Draco" thrusters. "After Crew Dragon lands in the Atlantic Ocean, SpaceX's recovery ship will recover it and return it to Port Canaveral, Florida to conclude its mission".
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. Success will also mean that "Earthy", a plush anthropomorphic doll of our planet, will be coming home from the space station.
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