Roscosmos Chief, Elon Musk Exchange Courtesies After SpaceX Capsule Landing

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After that, the Crew Dragon will parachute to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at around 8:45 a.m.

An unmanned capsule from Elon Musk's SpaceX was due to return to Earth on Friday after a short-term stay on the International Space Station, capping the first orbital test mission in NASA's long-delayed quest to resume human space flight from USA soil later this year.

Despite Musk's concerns, Crew Dragon aced its fiery descent through the atmosphere and looked in excellent condition as crews prepared to haul it out of the water today.

Five hours later, Dragon had moved into an orbit lower than the ISS. But before astronauts can climb aboard, SpaceX has to prove Dragon is ready.

Beyond the Nasa flights, Boeing and SpaceX could use their vehicles to offer space rides to tourists and others with the means to pay.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft's return journey and ocean splashdown. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

Aboard the station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain returned the compliment on behalf of the three-person crew. Before the mission, NASA officials had said the spacecraft's ability to dock autonomously to the station would be one of the biggest tests of the vehicle.

The craft did not carry a crew on this demonstration flight, which began on March 2 with a launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Their vehicles-SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner-will be NASA's primary means of transporting astronauts for the foreseeable future, ending nearly a decade of reliance on Russia's space program to launch American astronauts.

"We can't wait", she said.

The crewless mission has been planned in collaboration with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which aims at ending NASA's reliance on the Russian space program to shuttle astronauts to the ISS.

Dragon also marks an important shift in spacecraft design; the wingless vessel is a return to the design made famous by the U.S in the 60s and 70s. Instead, it carried a sensor-laden test dummy named Ripley - named for Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien films. The capsule also brought back 330 pounds of experiment results from the ISS. And maybe another plush toy or two.

"I don't think we saw anything in the mission so far that would preclude us from having a crewed mission later this year", Stich said Friday.

Some issues still need to be resolved before that crewed mission. Few people would be surprised if Demo-2 was launched later than July.

The mission, dubbed Demo-1, kicked off just under a week ago with the launch of the crew-capable Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 booster, and subsequent docking the following day. That flight should happen in April, and a crewed flight with the CST-100 could come as soon as August.