SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down off Florida

LOS ANGELES, March 8 (Xinhua) — American spacecraft Crew Dragon parachuted to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s eastern shore at 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time (1345 GMT) on Friday, completing a flight test to the International Space Station (ISS).

“It’s been almost 50 years since we’ve landed a spacecraft that was designed for humans in the Atlantic Ocean. Last one was Apollo 9 on March 13, 1969,” the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tweeted.

The spacecraft of U.S. private spaceflight company SpaceX undocked from the ISS at 2:32 a.m. Eastern Time (0732 GMT). It slowly maneuvered away from the ISS into an orbital track to return to Earth, according to NASA.

Before the undocking, ISS crew members closed and locked the Dragon’s hatch on Thursday afternoon.

Crew Dragon, designed to fly astronauts to the ISS, was rocketed into orbit last Saturday morning for its maiden unmanned flight. It successfully docked with the space station on Sunday, and remained docked for five days before departing on Friday.

The first commercial crew vehicle is bringing back to Earth over 330 pounds (about 136 kg) of science gear, crew supplies and station hardware, according to NASA. It delivered almost 450 pounds (about 204 kg) of materials to resupply the station crew last Saturday.

The capsule carried to the ISS a test dummy called Ripley, named after the heroine from the “Alien” movies, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on future astronauts who will travel in the Crew Dragon.

Once the spacecraft is safely home, an immense amount of work will commence to analyze all the data gathered during this test flight.

The demonstration mission, called Demo-1, is the first flight test of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a U.S. commercial company through a public-private partnership.

The mission also marks a significant step forward to the return of launching astronauts to the space station on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil since 2011.