Early last week we watched as Space Exploration Technologies launched the world’s first privately owned rocket (SpaceX Falcon 9) into space on a mission to deliver Space Capsule Dragon to the International Space Station. A few days later, we watched as Dragon successfully attached to the ISS to successfully deliver a cargo of much-needed supplies. Today we get to watch video of Dragon’s return to Earth after a hugely successful and historic mission: accomplished. Check out the successful end of this amazing space mission below.
The first private capsule to dock at the International Space Station returned to Earth on Thursday, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California, controllers reported. The SpaceX Dragon capsule landed at 8:42 a.m. (11:42 a.m. ET), controllers said. SpaceX founder Elon Musk was on hand at the company’s mission control center near Los Angeles as operators monitored the descent. The capsule’s return comes nine days after it took off on its historic mission. The capsule was released by the space station’s robotic arm at 5:35 a.m. ET. A thruster burn a minute later pushed the spacecraft away from its host, according to SpaceX, the private company that built and operates the Dragon. Its re-entry mimicked the way Apollo capsules returned to Earth after putting men on the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, but which fell out of use during the space shuttle era. Recovery divers were waiting on boats just outside the projecting landing area, ready to secure the spacecraft and tow it to a barge with a crane to hoist the space vehicle aboard. SpaceX calls its capsule is “the only spacecraft capable of returning a significant amount of cargo from the space station,” saying that other vehicles which deliver cargo to the International Space Station are destroyed after they leave the station … SpaceX is one of a few of private companies receiving NASA funds to develop the capability for commercial transport of astronauts into space. Musk, who founded the internet service PayPal, has said the commercial program — with fixed-price, pay-for-performance contracts — makes fiscal sense for taxpayers and fosters competition among companies on reliability, capability and cost. Astronaut Joe Acaba, also aboard the space station, called the mission a great first step in the commercialization of spaceflight, and Pettit agreed. “Commercial spaceflight will blossom due to its own merits, and doesn’t really hinge on one mission,” Pettit said. “It will hinge on the viability of launching many missions over a long period of time and being able to provide useful commercial goods and services in the low-Earth orbit arena.” SpaceX is now developing a heavy-lift rocket with twice the cargo capability of the space shuttle and hopes to build a spacecraft that could carry a crew to Mars.
This is truly an amazingly historic day. The successful completion of this mission means that we are not yet done exploring the vast unknown outer space, despite the fact that NASA, has halted for the foreseeable future, our nation’s space program. While other countries are making advances to their space programs, SpaceX has ensured that the US is still working toward boldly going where no man has gone before. The future is here … we are witnessing it right now. This mission may have been a “small step” but it is an important “giant leap” toward the future of space exploration.