SpaceX's Dragon capsule returned to Earth today with a splash following a successful mission to the International Space Station.
At approximately 8:42 AM Pacific Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its historic mission when the Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Pacific. The vehicle will now be recovered by boats and start the trip back to land.
The image of the craft bobbing in the ocean is strangely reminiscent of past NASA Apollo space missions, but this flight was different as Dragon became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the International Space Station. Previously only four governments – the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency – had achieved lofty goal.
Editors' note:This slideshow was originally published May 24 at 12:11 p.m. PT. It is being updated with new images and information as the SpaceX mission proceeds.
Photo by: SpaceX/Michael Altenhofen
/ Caption by:James Martin
Following a May 22 launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft reached orbit on a mission to meet up with the International Space Space in a historic event -- the first commercial ship to dock at the space station.
Here we see the Dragon capsule, berthed at the International Space Station on Friday, May 25. The Dragon returned to Earth this morning.
Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers aboard the ISS on May 25 got hold of Dragon at 9:56 a.m. EDT and used the robotic arm to berth Dragon to the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony node at 12:02 p.m. that day.
This image of the inside of the Dragon module was taken by European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers following the docking of SpaceX's unmanned craft, the first commercial flight mission to the ISS.
Gotcha! The robotic arm of the International Space Station captures the Dragon capsule at 9:56 a.m. PT / 6:56 a.m. PT on Friday, May 25. Folks at SpaceX, founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, were understandably elated. As soon as NASA confirmed the docking, SpaceX tweeted: CAPTURE COMPLETE!!!
Running through a series of tasks in preparation for docking with the ISS, Dragon showed its Absolute Global Positioning System (GPS), proximity operations sensors, and Commercial Orbital Transportation Services UHF Communication Unit (CUCU) are up and running properly.
This first view of the Dragon spacecraft as seen from the space station, SpaceX's Dragon appears as a just a small dot in the sky in this image taken Thursday.
This is a far-away view of the Dragon spacecraft as taken by astronauts aboard the space station. Prior to the docking, Dragon checked its systems and demonstrated safety procedures including full abort, and practiced floating freely in orbit in preparation for being grappled by the space station’s robotic arm.
Here's a view from the Dragon spacecraft as it orbits the Earth. Only minutes after the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, its solar arrays successfully deployed, providing power to the spacecraft.
Early Thursday morning, Dragon’s thrusters fired, bringing the vehicle within a distance of 2.4 kilometers below the International Space Station. This image of the space station was taken by the Dragon spacecraft’s thermal imager.
Using its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services UHF Communication Unit (CUCU), Dragon established its first communications link with the space station as part of docking preparations.