ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station

Gwen Vasquez
March 8, 2019

Crew Dragon will spend a little time in space before re-entering the atmosphere and it is set to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, not far off the Florida coast, at 1345GMT, a few hours after the undocking process (0731GMT).

SpaceX's swanky new crew capsule has undocked from the International Space Station and is headed toward an old-fashioned splashdown.

The burn itself kicked off on time, at 12:53 UTC, shaving a critical few hundred miles an hour off the Crew Dragon's speed ahead of a splashdown, almost 50 years to the day since Apollo 9 returned to Earth.

To say that the Crew Dragon did well would be a huge understatement.

A SpaceX rocket had launched the 16-foot-tall capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Saturday morning.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station March 3, 2019. A dummy, lovingly known as Ripley and dressed in SpaceX's astronaut gear and a suite of sensors, was its lone crew member.

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The adorable interactions between the ISS crew and the toy began when NASA astronaut Anne McClain included the plush Earth toy in the welcoming ceremony of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The mission comes at a precarious time for brash billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, who has come under fire for his sometimes erratic behavior.

The capsule's splashdown was aided by SpaceX's recovery vessel "Go Searcher", a ship equipped to pluck it from amidst the roiling ocean waves and carry it back to shore. NASA is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts this year. If deemed a complete success, the mission would give NASA increased confidence in one of its prime contractors and propel the space agency a step closer to restoring human spaceflight from USA soil. The Starliner's first crewed flight would follow, in August or later.

A final key test on Crew Dragon's emergency abort system is scheduled for June.

There were no people on board the spacecraft, built to carry four NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA said the toy would be brought back to Big Earth when two NASA astronauts - Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken - fly on Demonstration Mission 2 to the space station.

Once the Dragon reached a safe distance, NASA's Mission Control in Houston radioed its congratulations to SpaceX's team, the station's crew and partners around the world. Historic aerospace company Boeing are also readying to fly to the ISS with their own capsule, dubbed "Starliner", in the coming months.

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