NASA’s first cargo mission to the International Space Station is now over

Written by Staff Writer

It’s the latest manned mission for the space agency

NASA’s historic cargo mission to the International Space Station is now over.

Just after 6:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday (1:00 a.m. UTC Wednesday), the crew of the SpaceX capsule docked to the ISS, returning the four astronauts who had been aboard the station during a mission lasting 198 days. The astronauts will land on two NASA recovery ships off the coast of Baja California, California.

In a last-minute decision, the shuttle Discovery was flown in a special modified plane from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the Space Coast at the Florida’s Cape Canaveral, for a landing with a specially trained precision-landing and recovery team. The mission had been scheduled for December 20, but had to be rescheduled after the Crew Dragon capsule that was intended to take the astronauts’ place failed to launch in September.

U.S. astronaut Christina Hammock Koch said in an Instagram post that it was “still strange to be coming back and bringing back cargo from space,” after the flight, but “of course not without the best crew around to do it.” She along with three Russian cosmonauts — Alexander Gerst, Alexey Ovchinin and Sergei Ryazanskiy — flew on board the Dragon capsule during the historic voyage.

An image from flight overview of the Crew Dragon spacecraft before launch in May 2018. Credit: SpaceX/United Launch Alliance

The spacecraft is designed to carry seven people. While Musk said there has been “tremendous interest in the Crew Dragon” because of its ability to double up as a spacecraft and abort system for future flights, it is not yet clear what the next private trip to the ISS will be. The term SpaceX Crew Dragon has not yet been certified for human use in space by NASA.

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