Dragon spacecraft splashes down marking successful completion of historic mission


May 31, 2012

First picture of Dragon in the ocean as it awaits recovery

First picture of Dragon in the ocean as it awaits recovery

Image Gallery (3 images)

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean, marking the successful completion of its mission in which a number of historic firsts were achieved. The splashdown came at approximately 11:42 US EDT, with the unmanned capsule landing in the waters roughly 500 miles (805 km) off the coast of Baja, California.

After its launch on May 22 atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon capsule became the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on May 25. While attached to the ISS, 1,146 pounds (520 kg) of non-critical cargo that included food, other crew provisions and student experiments were unloaded, making room for the 1,455 pounds (660 kg) of cargo that was then packed onto the spacecraft to be returned to NASA. With other cargo vehicles servicing the ISS all destroyed after leaving the ISS, the reusable Dragon spacecraft is the only one capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.

While the journey to the ISS took 3 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 23 seconds, the return trip, from detaching from the ISS to splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, took just under six hours. After detaching from the ISS’s robotic arm at 5:49 am US EDT, a deorbit burn was carried out at 10:51 to decelerate the spacecraft. At 11:36, the spacecraft’s chutes were deployed and it splashed into the ocean six minutes later, awaiting recovery by boat.

The Dragon capsule after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean after splashdown

“This really couldn’t have gone better,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk after the successful landing. “We look forward to doing lots more missions in the future and continuing to upgrade the technology.”

After recovery, the spacecraft will be transported to Texas. Musk has said the capsule will be put on display as a historic artifact, with other Dragon capsules to be built for future flights.

Source: SpaceX, NASA

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Go SpaceX!

It is time to put NASA out of the Launch business.


@ Slowburn. I agree how I can just wait until something happens. On the third trip, let's assume the capsule explodes on takeoff or it burns up in re-entry.. whatever, I can just hear new media "Is space flight ready for corporate just yet?" Sure they are I'd respond, after all Nasa still get can't it right after 60 years.

Rocky Stefano

Congratulations to SpaceX! I really look forward to seeing what they come up with next. Particularly their plans for a flyback first stage.

Jon A.

So much better than that debacle we called the Space Shuttle. What a romantic waste that was. I wonder who made all the wonderful predictions on that one ($10 million re-launch cost anyone?). Good luck SpaceX!


What is so historic about old NASA technology, funded and handholded by them? Whom are they trying to fool? Any third world country could do better with that kind of support.

Michael Dijk

Bravo, SpaceX! This is a historic turning point. Thank you for finally doing what governments could not do: opening the doors to space!

Lorin Ricker

@Michael Van Dijk: Really? Check your facts.

The point is Space X is is the first US company in commercial competitive launch business after several decades (commercial(!) - not taxpayer subsidized, as NASA, or military paid for USAF). This area has been domain for the Russian, European or Chinese providers. Space X can cut the cost of a launch by an order of magnitude in comparison to other "standard" options in the US. Even the Chinese cannot compete with Space X on costs.

Additionally, you have Falcon Heavy in the works (essentially three Falcon 9s combined)- the currently largest and third historically largest rocket in the world (after Saturn V and Russian Energia). It is not true that Falcon Heavy is unfunded: just recently (May 29th press release) Space X signed an agreement with Intelsat to place new class of geostationary satellites in orbit with Falcon Heavy. As mentioned above, reusable first and second stages are in development. (That is better than shuttle, which was not really "reusable" but merely "reflyable". You do not fish out the SBRs out of the Atlantic and deal with salt water damage and splash shock - but they soft-touch down on the landing pad). Finally you have an air launch platform, in which Space X is also involved.

I do not see that much of a third world country here. (That is ...unless somebody moved to lightcraft, magnetic launch, space loop or space elevators real fast. But that would have been a completely new ball game which is not on the horizon anytime soon.)


Like North Korea Michael? Spacex was hardly "handholded" by NASA, it is a competition for private companies.

Bill Bennett

Well done SpaceX!!

Any of you experts out there know why it's got a 'crack' across the top? has some of the heat-shield been lost?


I puzzled over the crack also. Thanks for the re-direct, but why does the first craft appear in great condition while the Smithsonian's new display looks as if it actually went to the ISS? The development of this system will hopefully succeed as planned. Our dependence and the apparent greed of the Russians by doubling the ticket prices to the ISS can't end soon enough. Nasa technology, while "old", has contributed a wealth of experience and know how that made this possible. It cost us, the taxpayer's, a freakin' fortune and several lives, but it can never be denied. A huge Congratulations go to Space-X & the spirit of American competition!

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