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SpaceX capsule splash-lands

May 31, 2012

The first journey of a privately built spacecraft to the International Space Station has come to an end. SpaceX's Dragon capsule has splashed down into the Pacific Ocean as intended.

Space Exploration Technologies' unmanned Dragon capsule floats in the Pacific Ocean off of Baja California in this May 31, 2012 handout image courtesy of SpaceX. The splash down completing a pioneering mission for commercial firms seeking a major role in space travel. Riding beneath three parachutes, the bell-shaped capsule ended a nine-day spaceflight with a splashdown about 560 miles (900 km) west of Baja California at 11:42 a.m. EDT (1542 GMT). Dragon, built and flown by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, was the first privately owned spacecraft to reach the $100 billion International Space Station, which flies about 240 miles (386 km) above Earth.
Image: Reuters

The unmanned spacecraft parachuted safely into the ocean off the California coast on Thursday as planned.

"Dragon is in the water," NASA said after the US company reported the landing at 11:42 a.m. Eastern time (1542 GMT), two minutes ahead of schedule and six hours after it left the International Space Station (ISS).

The capsule delivered food and clothing to the ISS during its nine-day trip. The Dragon was the first non-governmental craft to successfully dock at the ISS.

The mission has been acclaimed by NASA and US leaders as a success. It opens up the possibility for private companies to take supplies - and one day perhaps astronauts - to the ISS.

The end of the US space shuttle program has forced astronauts to rely on Russia to get back and forth between Earth and the ISS.

ncy/jm (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)