Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is making history yet again. The company launched its Crew Dragon iteration of their versatile Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket on March 3 – and it landed safely today.
The purpose of the Crew Demo-1 Mission was to “demonstrate SpaceX’s capabilities to safely and reliably fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.” With NASA’s approval, SpaceX could potentially launch American astronauts from American soil, something we have not done since the space shuttle era. Since then, NASA has been sending astronauts to the ISS via the Russian Soyuz rocket, as part of the ISS program, a joint project between NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
SpaceX has already launched 16 Dragon missions to the ISS, partaking in the needed resupply missions to the orbiting laboratory. Crew Dragon is much different than the usual Dragon capsule. “To support human spaceflight, Crew Dragon features an environmental control and life support system, which provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members. The spacecraft is equipped with a highly reliable launch escape system capable of carrying crew to safety at any point during ascent or in the unlikely event of an anomaly on the pad. While the crew can take manual control of the spacecraft if necessary, Crew Dragon missions will autonomously dock and undock with the International Space Station,” according to a SpaceX spokesperson.
This demo mission includes a resupply of “roughly 400 pounds of crew supplies and equipment” to the ISS, and an “anthropomorphic test device” (a test dummy) that contains sensors around vital areas to provide data to NASA that the space capsule is suitable for human flight. The dummy is named Ripley, after the female protagonist of the movie “Alien.”
In other related news, an asteroid “as big as a jumbo jet” had a near miss with the Earth on Monday. The asteroid, known as asteroid 2015 EG, is estimated to be between 19 to 43 meters across and is moving at 21,545 miles per hour. The asteroid was determined to pass by the Earth just 274,400 miles away, which is 1.1 times the average distance from the Earth to the Moon (238,855 miles). Check out this video to see just how close it got.
Splashdown! Here’s the video showing the capsule successfully landing off the US coast in the Atlantic Ocean.