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Although launching a day later than originally planned, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully lifted off a NASA cargo destined for the International Space Station (ISS) on February 19th, and then performed a textbook landing for the rocket’s powerful first stage onto a landing pad at Cape Canaveral.
The rocket’s Dragon cargo capsule includes various scientific experiments as well as conventional supplies. The ISS astronauts will later load up the capsule with equipment to be returned to Earth and recovered by scientists after landing.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted news of the landing, saying : “Baby came back”.
SpaceX said the launch pad used for the ISS mission wold be turned around within 2 weeks and readied for its next mission which would be for a commercial launch, and for EchoStar-23.
But a pre-launch press conference on February 17th heard the company’s president Gwynne Shotwell tell journalists that Musk’s planned ‘Mission to Mars’ scheme had slipped its launch date from 2018 to 2020. “We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew programme and our Falcon Heavy programme,” Shotwell she said.