Thursday, May 31, 2012

Space X's Dragon Demo Mission a Success!

Space X's cargo-filled Dragon capsule splashed down into the Pacific ocean this morning a little at 10:42 a.m., finishing off what was a ground-breaking and highly successful mission!  Obviously in the long run I'm hoping that Boeing can take on the roll of the next great manned-spacecraft provider, but for now I'm just thrilled ot pieces that SOMEONE is doing SOMETHING to keep us moving forward in our efforts to travel to and discover more about space!  Here are some great images of the last 24(ish) hours of the Dragon capsule's journey:
This is what I was supporting on-console for yesterday morning at the crack of dawn: the final closure of the Dragon Demo's hatch.  This is what the astronauts saw from the inside of the ISS.
Then last night the Dragon capsule successfully unberthed from the ISS, filled full of cargo that is coming back to Earth.  One of the amazing things about the Dragon capsule compared to the current ISS supply vehicles in use, the Russian Progress, European ATV, and Japanese HTV, is that of the 4 of these vehicles, the Dragon capsule is the only one that doesn't burn up in the Earth's atmosphere on reentry and is therefore, currently, our only means of bringing large amounts of cargo back to Earth for study and refurbishment.
I can't determine where this picture came from, so I have no idea if it's a reliable image of reentry.  But it gives you the right idea.  The Dragon capsule is using an ablative heat shield, which means it "absorbs" the heat of reentry by slowly melting away, taking the heat with it.  It's similar to the Apollo era heat sheilds, whereas the shuttle used airpockets (which are characteristic of the ceramic used to make the tiles) to contain the heat and prevent it from propogating.
And finally, here is the image that NASA released only moments ago of the landed Dragon capsule bobbing safely in the ocean as the recovery barge heads out to haul it back to shore, where we will be able to unload all of the payload.  Great mission!

(images from here, here, and here)

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