SpaceX Dragon capsule ends test flight with ocean splashdown

Crew Dragon is coming back to Earth: What to know

Watch: SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean

This morning's splashdown was the final hurdle of SpaceX's six-day test flight.

"Just incredible. I can't believe how well the whole mission has gone" with all major milestones met, said Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management.

SpaceX's passenger-ready Crew Dragon craft successfully undocked from the International Space Station on March 8, ready for its return journey to Earth. "And that's cool", Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for NASA's human spaceflight program, said during a briefing before the launch, The Washington Post reports.

A SpaceX rocket had launched the 16-foot-tall capsule Saturday morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Officials at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration will scrutinize the performance of the SpaceX capsule's parachute deployment and its buoyancy after splash-down - two of the design and functionality concerns first reported by Reuters in February. In contrast to the pristine white hull seen in earlier phases of its mission, the vehicle now bears long scorch marks from its fiery re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

The capsule carried to the ISS a test dummy Ripley, named after the heroine from the "Alien" movies, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on future astronauts who will travel in the Crew Dragon. "This flight really sets us up well for the rest of the year". This unmanned test flight ferried supplies to the station.

Almost five days later, astronauts at the Space Station closed the hatch on the capsule, according to NASA.

That completes its short mission to the ISS that put the module created to carry humans to space to test for the first time.

Capsules have no wings and fall to Earth, their descent slowed only by parachutes - much like the Russian Soyuz craft, which lands in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Once aloft, the SpaceX craft traveled to the space station, whizzing around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, catching up early the next morning.

Boeing could conduct the first uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner capsule as soon as April.

The last generation of United States spacecraft, the Space shuttles, landed like airplanes, and two of the four original shuttles had catastrophic accidents that killed 14 crew members. Ever since the Shuttle Program ended in 2011, NASA has been working with commercial partners to provide transportation to and from the ISS. "And then we can use the tax-payer resources that are bestowed upon us to do exploration, to go further, to go back to the Moon sustainably", said Nasa chief Jim Bridenstine.

Due to about three years of development delays, the switch has come to fruition under Trump.

"I realize I've been holding my breath for five years".

At this point, we tend to take it for granted that SpaceX will stick its landings.

NASA awarded the first contracts in 2014 to SpaceX and Boeing, now totalling about $8 billion.

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