Shelby: The SpaceX Dragon’s splash-down on Earth marked a major milestone for space with its successful 10-day mission. The Dragon capsule is the first commercial craft ever to supply the International Space Station and return a shipment from orbit.
The Dragon blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on May 22nd and docked with the International Space Station a week ago, delivering about 1200 pounds of food and supplies.
Astronaut Donald Pettit was the first human in space to enter the unmanned Dragon.
Donald Pettit: I spent quite a bit of time poking around in here this morning, just looking at the engineering and the layout, and i’m very pleased.
Shelby: After the astronauts emptied the cargo, they repacked the capsule with crew items, science experiments, and hardware to send back to NASA.
“The SpaceX team is now confirming that Dragon has successfully splashed down at 10:42AM Central Time. Dragon is in the water.”
Shelby: Unlike one-way cargo vehicles sent by Russia, Europe and Japan, which burn up after supplying the space station, the Dragon was able to return items back to Earth. And that is a big deal for both SpaceX and the nation’s space program.
When NASA retired the space shuttle program last year, it left America without a spacecraft to send astronauts into orbit. The U.S. has been paying Russia $60 million per flight to send humans to the space station. But with the success of private companies like SpaceX, NASA hopes all of that will change.
“It’s roomier than a soyuz, so flying up in a human-rated dragon is not going to be an issue.”
Shelby: SpaceX and three other companies — Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Nevada — are working on spacecraft that can carry astronauts to and from the space station, and they could fly as early as 2017.
The commercial rockets are expected to cost much less than the shuttle missions. So, NASA’s hoping there will be more money for other missions — to asteroids, the moon, and eventually Mars!