SpaceX's Crew Dragon module has splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean

SpaceX's Crew Dragon module has splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean

Plush toy fans will be delighted to learn that the cuddly planet Earth that hitched a ride into orbit aboard the spacecraft will remain on the outpost, keeping 'nauts company during their long missions.

As the capsule came back to Earth, it deployed a couple of parachutes to brake its speed. He found it "very slick" and called it business class. The ship is also equipped with medical quarters and a helicopter pad so that, when crew is involved, it's ready for emergencies.

Dragon will undock from the ISS Friday at 07:31 GMT.

But the capsule was also responsible for delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

It was the first time in 50 years that a capsule designed for astronauts returned from space by landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The flight is a milestone for Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as they attempt to end US dependence on Russian Federation for astronaut shuttles to the space station.

"Human spaceflight is the core mission of SpaceX, so we are really excited to do this", Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president for build and flight reliability, said on Friday in a pre-launch briefing.

NASA now pays Roscosmos about $80 million per seat to launch astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft. Both SpaceX and Boeing have been hampered with delays - but 2019 could be the year they start flying crew. However, SpaceX still has a lot of work to do to achieve its ultimate goal of launching astronauts. SpaceX plans to launch its first crewed test flight in July with American astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

The next best thing to a person was aboard the Crew Dragon however: a full-sized dummy in a SpaceX spacesuit - named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien series - outfitted with sensors to record and report all of the physical experiences of the flight, including the hard slap as the bottom of the spacecraft hit the water.

Data from the spacecraft's descent on Friday will be key.

The capsule will prepare itself for landing with a deorbit burn before a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. But that tower had to be jettisoned before the spacecraft reached orbit - before the spacecraft even separated from the rocket, in fact - briefly leaving the crew with no escape system at all if something went wrong. American astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques carried out air quality tests and inspections inside the capsule. "That's mainly because we always want, in case there are issues with either system, that we have an integrated crew".

Waiting in the wings is Boeing and its CST-100 Starliner capsule, being prepared for an unpiloted test flight this spring and its initial piloted launch this fall. It's slated to fly an uncrewed demo mission no earlier than April.

NASA resumed talks with Russia's space agency Roscosmos in February seeking two additional Soyuz seats for 2020 to maintain a US presence on the space station amid delays in the commercial crew program.

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