The Dragon space cargo vehicle broke its ties to the International Space Station (ISS) in the early hours of May 31 and began a five-and-a-half-hour journey back to Earth.
The capsule, the first commercial spacecraft to successfully dock with the ISS, performed as expected on its scorching return through the atmosphere and splashdown. Recovery ships were in place to fish Dragon out of the Pacific Ocean more than 800 kilometers from coastal California.
The capsule is returning to its builder, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), for unpacking and refitting. The craft comes back from the ISS with scientific experiments, obsolete equipment and other items no longer useful.
Both NASA and SpaceX have declared the nine-day mission a success as the first big step toward privatization of routine space travel. Astronauts on board the space station, who unloaded Dragon’s cargo and repacked it for return, expressed their willingness to make the trip from Earth to the ISS on future Dragon-like craft equipped for passengers.