Elon Musk, SpaceX complete historic test flight to International Space Station

SpaceX capsule back on Earth paving way for new manned US flights

The capsule carried to the ISS a test dummy Ripley, named after the heroine from the "Alien" movies, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on future astronauts who will travel in the Crew Dragon.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely returned to the Earth today, dropping into the Atlantic Ocean following a successful mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The United States has not launched astronauts into space since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

"Just wonderful. I can't believe how well the whole mission has gone" with all major milestones met, said Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management. 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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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.

A SpaceX rocket launched the 16-foot-tall (4.9-meter) capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last Saturday. Six hours later, the capsule carrying a test dummy plopped into the Atlantic off the Florida coast.

The Commercial Crew Program is the end result of a series of NASA-funded industry competitions in the wake of the shuttle's retirement to develop a new American spacecraft to carry astronauts to and from the space station. Despite being similar to the smooth, cone-shaped Dragon cargo spacecraft, the Crew Dragon version is asymmetrical, which could make it trickier to navigate through the atmosphere while temperatures flair to thousands of degrees Farhenheit. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised Crew Dragon's mission.

The live view then switched to color cameras on SpaceX's recovery ship, the Go Searcher, which saw the drogue and main parachutes deploy successfully.

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After the inspections are complete, the same spacecraft will be refurbished and launched again in April for a critical in-flight abort test, triggering the capsule's eight Super Draco rocket motors to demonstrate its ability to quickly pull away from a malfunctioning booster. Called Demo-2, that flight will be a 14 day mission to the ISS.

There were no people on board the capsule, but its re-entry into the earth's atmosphere marked the first roundtrip to the floating laboratory by a privately-owned spacecraft and one of the biggest tests for the Dragon. The commercial crew programme "is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", he tweeted.

Unlike the first Dragon freighter, the Crew Dragon will not be hung up like a trophy at SpaceX HQ.

Almost five days later, astronauts at the Space Station closed the hatch on the capsule, according to NASA.

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The splashdown is the final test for Crew Dragon, which has so far been successful in the flight test of the capsule that could become the first USA craft to carry astronauts since the space shuttle program was phased out in 2011.

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