SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule returns to Earth after successful mission

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, an unmanned capsule designed to take humans into space, completed the fiery, high-speed descent through the atmosphere and touched down on the Atlantic not far off the coast of Florida at 8.45 am (1345 GMT) on Friday, news reports say.

Earlier in the day, the capsule began its return journey to Earth after successfully undocking from the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX’s headquarters in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, California, exploded in joy as scientists welcomed the successful completion of the capsule’s landmark mission which began on Saturday on board a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The mission called Demo-1 is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme involving US aerospace industry companies to develop human spaceflight systems.

The programme is aimed at ending the dependence on Russian space programme to take astronauts to the ISS which began after the US space agency shut down its shuttle programme in July 2011.

NASA is paying Russia $82 million per head to take its people up to the ISS orbiting research facility.

In 2014, it awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to take over the task from Russia. SpaceX may take NASA astronauts to the ISS in July.