SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has made quite a splash over the past week, becoming the first privately operated vehicle to successfully dock with the International Space Station.
And today, its epic journey ended with another splash – the craft has just landed back on Earth, plummeting into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
The first photo of the floating spacecraft (credit: Michael Altenhofen)
Dragon made history last Friday when it docked with the ISS – “looks like we got us a dragon by the tail,” remarked Don Pettit, one of the astronauts on board.
The next day, the astronauts opened Dragon’s hatch, before unloading the spacecraft’s cargo – around half a tonne of food, water, and other supplies – and filling the craft with 660kg of finished experiments and redundant equipment ready to be transported back to Earth.
Now that this test mission has been completed, SpaceX is ready to start fulfilling its $1.6bn, 12-mission contract with NASA to deliver cargo to the ISS. And before too long, Dragon might even be acting as a space taxi, transporting astronauts to the orbital outpost.
Check out this month’s Focus, on sale now, for a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for Dragon’s historic flight.
Read more about Dragon's mission here.