“And the SpaceX team is confirming that Dragon has successfully splashed down at 10:42 A.M. Central Time. Dragon is in the water.” NASA Mission Control, announcing that the first commercial spacecraft to reach the International Space Station has returned to Earth safely.
The Dragon capsule was built by the California company SpaceX. It landed in the Pacific on May 31st and was retrieved by recovery boats after returning from delivering supplies to the ISS.
“It took up 1,014 pounds of cargo, it is now bringing back 1,367 pounds of return items. This is also an important capability, because Dragon will be able to bring home science experiments as well as other items.”
More importantly, the mission demonstrated that a private company could do what only government space agencies had done before: rendezvous with the space station, safely dock with it and return to Earth.
The Dragon was unmanned, but could be configured to carry astronauts. NASA is banking that companies such as SpaceX will help fill the void left by the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. But that’s all in the future. Today, SpaceX is already flying high.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]