The SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is heading back to Earth after almost one week at the International Space Station.
The spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida March 2, docking with the station 27 hours later after a problem-free approach.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon is spinning down its orbit after undocking from the International Space Station early Friday.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques opened the hatch Sunday becoming the first to enter the new vehicle in space. Instead, it carried a sensor-laden test dummy named Ripley - named for Sigourney Weaver's character in the Aliens films.
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain
"We wish this new asset to human spaceflight fair winds and following seas as it returns to Earth for its splashdown in the Atlantic", Mission Control said. However, Crew Dragon is carrying one lifeless - but lifelike - passenger, a dummy outfitted with a variety of sensors so scientists can measure the forces exerted on the body during the mission. "We want to make sure that everything is flawless".
NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion (£5.2 billion) in all to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil, something not possible since the U.S. Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011. It carried approximately 400 pounds of equipment, food and other supplies the astronauts need in order to continue their work.
The unmanned capsule's voyage marks a key milestone for Elon Musk's space company and NASA's long-delayed goal to resume human spaceflight from US soil later this year. Both SpaceX and Boeing have been working hard to meet that demand, and a year ago it seemed like Boeing's Starliner would beat the Crew Dragon to its delivery date. And maybe another plush toy or two.
"I think our plan is to have him teach us", Behnken said, referring to Li'l Earthie. The data from the demonstration-1 flight is part of the process to secure certification from NASA to fly crew. The Starliner's first crewed flight would follow, in August or later.
Additional issues may turn up as a result of Demo-1's post-flight assessment, or during an upcoming test of the Crew Dragon's in-flight abort system. But if the splashdown is successful, SpaceX is not waiting very long to start flying humans into space.
SpaceX capsule docks with space station in test mission
Boeing has similar uncrewed and crewed test flights planned for April and August, respectively, for their own certification tests. At the post-launch press conference on Saturday, he reiterated his dream for a permanent Moon base - and sending people to Mars.
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