SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule returns from ISS

The full video of the Crew Dragon's trip home is already available online along with commentary from NASA and SpaceX officials. He said such progress was "leading to a day where we are launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

This flight is the beginning of a new phase in American spaceflight.

The last generation of United States spacecraft, the space shuttles, landed like airplanes. In the intervening years, it has been relying on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to shuttle crew back and forth.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon has been retrieved by the "Go Searcher" recovery ship after splashing into the Atlantic Ocean Friday morning.

The craft had been attached to the space station since Sunday, when it made its first docking under its own power after a successful Saturday launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

That possibility never became reality - at least not this time - partly because Musk wasn't being hyperbolic about those thousand simulations, which SpaceX and NASA exhaustively conducted via computer models. The data from the demonstration-1 flight is part of the process to secure certification from NASA to fly crew.

With the CCP, they still work with industry partners, but with more of a hands-off approach. The cargo vessel's heat shield is little different in shape from the designs that protected NASA's manned Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft - round and slightly convex, to disperse the superheated plasma that is produced by the ship's plunge through the steadily thickening air. But the companies are encouraged to use their best manufacturing and business practices to achieve their goals. It's slated to fly an uncrewed demo mission no earlier than April.

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. The spacecraft spent the week docked at the ISS.

SpaceX's Dragon Crew has successfully returned to earth.

The Crew Dragon drifts away from the ISS.

The mission - which had no humans aboard, only a dummy covered in sensors - went according to plan. That in turn is excellent news for NASA, which has been buying seats on Russian Soyuz rockets since the end of the shuttle program in 2011. The craft splashed down right at 8:45 a.m.as was expected.

Crew Dragon also aced a key NASA review ahead of launch, and the space agency hasn't yet reported any issues with the mission.

Next up is the first crewed flight for the Crew Dragon.

"This is an fantastic achievement in human history. the dawn of a new era in American human space flight", said Jim Bridenstine, the head of Nasa, which signed a $2.6 billion contract with SpaceX in 2014 to build a new generation of manned spacecraft. Crew Dragon continued to whirl through orbit and burned its thrusters four times to make a carefully choreographed, gradual descent.

History made: Crew Dragon was the first spacecraft to dock at the space station's new global docking adapter, installed in the Harmony module by astronauts in August 2016.

So what's left to say?

Significant delays hampered the launch of the Crew Dragon but on March 2 it finally achieved lift-off from storied Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Even the President is probably happy, if he pays attention to things like this. Land in the Atlantic and you just scoop it up and bring it in to shore.

Vanessa Coleman

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