Commercial shuttle SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth

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The SpaceX Dragon carrying a test dummy plopped into the Atlantic Ocean about 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. (NASA TV)

SpaceX's swanky new crew capsule returned to Earth Friday, ending its first test flight with an old-fashioned splashdown.

The Dragon undocked from the International Space Station earlier in the day. Six hours later, the capsule carrying a test dummy plopped into the Atlantic about 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The capsule was loaded onto a recovery ship and brought back to port.

It marks the first time in 50 years that a capsule designed for astronauts returned from space by plopping into the Atlantic.

Apollo 9 splashed down near the Bahamas on March 13, 1969.

NASA astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets since space shuttles retired eight years ago.

NASA is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts this year. 

Friday morning's splashdown was the final hurdle of SpaceX's six-day test flight and culminated a series of 'firsts' in commercial space travel.

Among the achievements by the SpaceX Dragon includes it becoming the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a misison to the space station.

It is also the first autonomous docking of a a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.

“If you just think about the enormity of this flight and all of the prep that went into it – getting the pad refurbished, getting the flight control room set up, getting the vehicle built, getting the Falcon 9 ready, all of the analysis and mission support that went into it – it’s just been a tremendous job. Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

With the Associated Press