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ISS NASA Space Science

After Trip to ISS, SpaceX's Dragon Capsule Returns Safely To Earth 150

thomas.kane writes "SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft has successfully reentered and is now safely in the waters of the Pacific Ocean after more than 9 days in space. The Dragon capsule became the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station on May 25; SpaceX is contracted by NASA for at least 12 more flights in the coming months bringing supplies to the space station and returning science done on board back to Earth." Reader MightyMartian adds a link to coverage at the BBC.
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After Trip to ISS, SpaceX's Dragon Capsule Returns Safely To Earth

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  • by Sgs-Cruz ( 526085 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:28PM (#40168359) Homepage Journal

    This is fantastic news. I don't care what you think of space policy or anything, this is a good day for everybody.

    Now, let's see NASA make good on their promise to hand over LEO to the private sector so they can think about Mars and beyond!

  • Observation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:43PM (#40168607)

    In digging around various information sources on Dragon, I noticed something odd: It appears in this []photo that the capsule is equipped with standard red/green navigation lights []. Are these actual nav lights? Are they an FAA requirement?

  • by Moheeheeko ( 1682914 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:45PM (#40168639)
    The funny thing is, SpaceX is already looking to Mars. The heat shield is designed to survive re-entry from a deep space trajectory.
  • Re:Observation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by weiserfireman ( 917228 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @12:48PM (#40168701) Homepage


    But I would imagine it has to do more with docking the spaceship rather than reentry. The way they are both oriented on the same side is what makes me believe that.

    Red/green lights are normally located on opposite sides of the aircraft/ship so that you can tell which direction it is going at night.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:01PM (#40168921)
    SpaceX has several flights of dragon and one sat coming later this year. The question becomes does SpaceX have their QA in line to handle these without errors. Likewise, can they launch the dragons on-time (in august and dec)? If they get it on-time, then I have little doubt that they will succeed next year.
    Do note that SpaceX is suppose to launch a sat on the F9 in Oct. I would not be surprised to see them carry that through to next year. The reason is that they will have to make sure that sat release is decent. However, I will be impressed if they DO get all 3 off the ground and without any real errors.

    Finally, note that Falcon Heavy is coming. It is 'suppose' to launch this year, but that is not likely. SpaceX will be doing checks and re-checks (even spaceX says that there is little chance of it launching this year). If SpaceX can get that off the ground in the first half of next year again without major errors, SpaceX OWNS the industry.

  • by Prune ( 557140 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:05PM (#40168983)
    It would be interesting to see if the human expansion into space eventually ushers in further extension of the extremes of inequality, with the first trillionaires (as measured in today's currency, adjusted for inflation) being, say, asteroid mining tycoons. I don't yet have much of an opinion here; I'm more interested on reading others' thoughts on this.
  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:14PM (#40169103) Journal
    Have humans brought things back? No. There have been various proposed Mars sample return missions but they've always been too expensive.

    Has nature? Yes. There are quite a few meteorites that originated on Mars [].

  • by crypticedge ( 1335931 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:32PM (#40169345)

    The Death Star was built by government labor, as was the Enterprise.

  • by Metabolife ( 961249 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:45PM (#40169495)

    You can clearly see that it splashed down about a minute earlier than their estimate in the following video. They quickly took the time down and never mentioned it again... A minute's worth of miscalculation at 1000km/s could be a big fast mistake. []

  • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @02:18PM (#40170045)

    Elon Musk's primary goal in founding SpaceX is to go to Mars and I would give him as good a chance of acheiving it as anyone.

    The shuttle being decommisioned improves the odds of going to Mars, not reduces them. It was a money sink and it promoted the mind set of being stuck in LEO because it was stuck in LEO. It had also acquired so many restrictions for safety issues it was barely doing its vastly reduced mission. It had turned in to a pork barrell project to make jobs at NASA, Boeing and Lockheed, not do anything worthwhile in space (outside of servicing Hubble).

    Intelsat [] signed the first commercial contract for Falcon Heavy yesterday and if SpaceX can successfully build and launch those, and even better recover and reuse them, they will be a far more valuable tool in leaving LEO and going to Mars than Shuttle every would be.

    I personally dont think bone loss and eyesight are going to be show stopping issue for Mars. Radiation exposure in deep space and on the surface of Mars is the serious issue unless you can get a ship with enough shielding and propulsion to move the shielding.

    Me personally and I'm sure lots of others would volunteer for a Mars mission even if it was a one way mission and life shortening. To me the ideal mission to Mars is a one way trip with a permenent stay, and a logistics train to support a permenent colony. The zero G issues are more a problem returning to 1G and earth than they would be staying in 1/3 G on Mars which isn't as bad as zero G. A one way trip also saves a long return trip in zero G to get back to Earth. Even if zero G is a problem you can build a larger ship and spin it enough to get 1/3 G. That is an engineering challenge, not a show stopping issue.

  • Stupid Wikipedia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chibi Merrow ( 226057 ) * <mrmerrow AT monkeyinfinity DOT net> on Thursday May 31, 2012 @02:29PM (#40170191) Homepage Journal

    I read your post and immediately thought "How did he link to the Wikipedia article and not see where it mentions piloted spacecraft?" only to find out someone deleted all references to spacecraft in January with no explanation.

    You can see the previous [] version here.

    My understanding is that manned, piloted spacecraft are supposed to have nav lights on them. The Shuttle didn't have them because the FAA gave them a waiver and special airspace.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2012 @02:53PM (#40170587)

    The chute opened basically exactly on schedule. That's where you go from precise de-orbit calculations to dealing with localized weather. The chute was open for about 5 minutes, travel speed was about 12 mph with the chutes open. If they had expected a 2-3 mph updraft but didn't get one, then that explains the water landing being a minute or so early. Really no concern here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 31, 2012 @05:01PM (#40172647)

    Actually, what I saw in that photo makes perfect sense after I saw pictures of the other side of the capsule. It was just part of the parachute deployment [] stuff. Whew!!!

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