SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean today, ending a six-day uncrewed test run preparing the way for astronaut trips to the International Space Station later this year.
Scorch marks were visible on the side of the 27-foot-long craft as it descended at the end of four red-and-white parachutes and hit the water at 5:45 a.m. PT. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had said the hypersonic plunge through the atmosphere was his “biggest concern,” but the capsule survived intact.
The Dragon looked like a giant toasted marshmallow as it was pulled up onto its “nest” on SpaceX’s recovery ship, about 200 miles out from Florida’s Atlantic coast. The ship, GO Searcher, will bring the spacecraft back to shore for inspection.
The last time a crew-capable spaceship splashed down in the Atlantic was 50 years ago, at the end of NASA’s Apollo 9 mission.
After today’s splashdown, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine gave a shout-out to predecessors going back more than a decade, crediting them for setting up a commercial crew program aimed at filling the gap left by the space shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011.