Published: Fri, March 08, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Champagne corks undocked as SpaceX brings the Crew Dragon back to Earth

Champagne corks undocked as SpaceX brings the Crew Dragon back to Earth

Crew members of International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 58 have continued to bring the unofficial DM-1 Crew Dragon "mascot" along as they complete station activities.

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.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will return to Earth after its six-day demonstration mission at the International Space Station. Apollo 9 splashed down near the Bahamas on March 13, 1969.

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

Inside the Crew Dragon, you'll see the shape of a person sitting there. The capsule successfully docked with the ISS and earlier today it was sent back to Earth. SpaceX engineers dubbed the dummy Ripley, a nod to a character in the 1979 film Alien.

Completing the test mission on Friday will bring SpaceX's Crew Dragon one step closer to flying humans - and ending the United States' years-long reliance on Russian Federation to fly NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.

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.

ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station 1
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain

Splashdown is expected at about 1345 GMT (0845 EST) on Friday, and a vessel, the GO Searcher, will be waiting to recover the capsule. NASA is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts this year.

For now, SpaceX wins the day - and continue to forge a path between the U.S. and the International Space Station.

Officials at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration will scrutinize the performance of the SpaceX capsule's parachute deployment and its buoyancy after splash-down - two of the design and functionality concerns first reported by Reuters in February.

That test is now scheduled for June.

Once aloft, the SpaceX craft traveled to the space station, whizzing around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, catching up early the next morning. The Starliner's first crewed flight would follow, in August or later. NASA explained in a blog post on March 2 that the system is recording "everything an astronaut would experience throughout the mission, such as the forces, acceleration, the protection offered by Crew Dragon's seats, and overall environment".

The timeline for Boeing's Starliner is not as clear.

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