Crew Dragon is coming back to Earth: What to know


The SpaceX Crew Dragon faces its most unsafe test yet today, when the asymmetrical shaped capsule will attempt to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and return its "passenger", a dummy dubbed Ripley to terra firma. After undocking from the space station, the Crew Dragon will fly for about 5 hours before it begins to slow down in order to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

History made: Crew Dragon was the first spacecraft to dock at the space station's new worldwide docking adapter, installed in the Harmony module by astronauts in August 2016. The astronauts have been showing the Earth buddy around the space station. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also included a small "zero gravity sensor" in the shape of an Earth-shaped plush toy. Instead, it has paid Russian Federation for rides to the space station at an increasing price tag that now tops $80 million. After docking at the ISS, the Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques was the first to enter the capsule, describing it as a "business-class" experience. Astronauts closed the hatch to the spacecraft just before 1 p.m. Thursday.

Crew Dragon undocks from the ISS.

The spacecraft will bring back to Earth more than 300 pounds of science equipment, supplies and hardware. NASA TV will track the deorbit and landing starting around 4:30 a.m. PT Friday.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft disembarked from the International Space Station early Friday, making a journey toward Earth the company hopes will end with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic ocean.

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

No human spaceflight has launched from America since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, and Nasa has relied on Russian Soyuz modules to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS in the intervening years.

Crew Dragon could be the first commercially built spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts to orbit.

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 USA soil later this year.

Even if Crew Dragon passes scrutiny for the Demo-1 mission, there's another giant test: an "in-flight abort" that will showcase the Crew Dragon's safety features should something go wrong during launch. The company plans to send astronauts onboard the Crew Dragon as early as this summer.

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