SpaceX Crew Dragon: Watch the historic mission return from ISS today

Crew Dragon on the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida prior to launch

NASA/Joel Kowsky

Launch from Earth on a Falcon 9 rocket: Check. Orbit the planet: Check. Dock at the International Space Station: Check. Head back to Earth: Just hours away.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon has nearly completed its NASA Demo-1 mission. The next big step is to undock from the ISS and come back to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. You can tune in to NASA TV for all the action on Thursday and Friday.

NASA kicked off its live coverage on Thursday when the ISS crew closed the hatch leading to the capsule. The procedure went smoothly.

The Crew Dragon hatch is closed, as seen from the ISS.

Video screenshot by CNET

The space agency will pick up with coverage of the undocking process, which is scheduled to start at 11 p.m. PT Thursday

Crew Dragon will spend a little time in space before re-entering the atmosphere. NASA TV will track the deorbit and landing starting around 4:30 a.m. PT Friday.

Crew Dragon delivered crew supplies and equipment to the ISS. While no humans were on board, the capsule did host a test dummy named Ripley and a cute Earth plushie toy, which was adopted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain. The capsule will return with research samples on board, but the cuddly Earth will remain behind on the ISS.

While SpaceX has aced the proceedings so far, this next stage will test the Crew Dragon’s departure, re-entry and parachute systems. SpaceX’s Go Searcher recovery ship will pick up the capsule from the water. 

This adventure marks the first test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which involves SpaceX and Boeing working to launch astronauts from US soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. 

If Crew Dragon passes scrutiny for the Demo-1 mission, then astronauts could launch in a SpaceX capsule as early as midyear. 

Originally published, March 5.
Update, March 7: Adds countdown to the mission’s end.

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