"Fifty years after humans landed on the moon for the first time, America has driven a golden spike on the trail to new space exploration feats through the work of our commercial partner SpaceX and all of the talented and dedicated flight controllers at NASA and our global partners". SpaceX's unmanned Crew Dragon capsule landed off the coast Florida after a trip to the International Space Station. "There'll be a Russian on our flights, and we'll still have an American on a Soyuz flight". According to Benjamin Reed, SpaceX's director of crewmission management, "Everything happened just perfectly, right on time the way that we expected it to".
"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed!" the SpaceX account tweeted, with an image of the capsule showing its four main white and orange parachutes deployed as two boats sped towards it.
The new global docking adapter that was installed by astronauts during a spacewalk in August 2016 was used for the first time by the Crew Dragon.
What now: Recovery crews are in place and Crew Dragon will be loaded onto the recovery ship. Without wings, the capsules fall to earth assisted by parachutes, rather than at space shuttles that more closely resembled planes that "flew" back to Earth.
The demonstration mission, called Demo-1, is the first flight test of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a US commercial company through a public-private partnership.
In hopes of conducting manned missions one day, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 carried a crash dummy with lots of sensors to test if the conditions were fit for a human. Provided it goes well, the first crewedmission of SpaceX'scapsule will occur in July, featuring astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
The Crew Dragon during atmospheric re-entry. Hypersonic re-entry is a matter of concern. "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.
But the bottom of the Crew Dragon is slightly asymmetrical, its ideal contours rendered imperfect by the four pairs of engines built around the base of the ship.
Despite the distractions, Friday's landing appeared to be another triumph for SpaceX, and validation of years of work.
The SpaceXCrew Dragon is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, in which it collaborates with private companies to develop new options for human space travel - and end USA reliance on Russian space vehicles to get astronauts into orbit.
Boeing won contracts totaling $4.82 billion to develop the CST-100 Starliner, a capsule that will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.