Dallas — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a debut test flight to the International Space Station (ISS), completing a crucial step toward flying people for the first time on a commercially built vehicle. Slowed by four parachutes during its descent, the unpiloted spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at about 8.45am US Eastern time on Friday about 400km east of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, roughly six hours after undocking. Before sealing the Crew Dragon at 12.39pm on Thursday for its return, astronauts loaded the vessel with about 150kg of supplies and other materials to send home. The flight is a milestone for Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as they attempt to end US dependence on Russia for astronaut shuttles to the space station. Nasa’s Commercial Crew programme is also relying on a separate Boeing spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, which continues preparatory work for an unpiloted trip to t...

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