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Hypothetically, why could the current Dragon not be used for carrying astronauts from space? Since there is always some research material in Dragon, I believe this vehicle has e.g. heat shields.

Is it just a matter of equipment (seats, belts, etc.), or in material used and structure as well?

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    $\begingroup$ I suspect that it's a reliability issue. Dragon was never designed with that in mind, so the safety tolerances are lower. It's like hooking up a Win 98 machine to a coma patient. In theory it would work. Just no one in their right mind would try it. $\endgroup$ – Aron Aug 11 '16 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ I would like to add: COULD it be used to return crew today (in some unlikely emergency)? $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Aug 11 '16 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ The current system cannot be used to return crew (at least not the whole crew) because it must be unberthed using the robot arm. (Unless this can be done from the ground, which is not out of the question - I just don't know). $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Aug 11 '16 at 20:07
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AFAIK there is no life support system on board. The air in the capsule is not enough to support a human for the ~4 hours it takes from leaving the station to landing.
You'd also have to install seats designed to handle the G loads (i.e. contoured to properly support the body, and on springs to soften the touchdown).

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  • $\begingroup$ That would not prevent you from using an EVA suit with Dragon. $\endgroup$ – Aron Aug 11 '16 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ Yes it would. EVA suits are designed to work in a vacuum in microgravity. The cooling system doesn't work in an atmosphere. The suit itself would be extremely uncomfortable at best with launch and landing loads and would likely cause additional injury. $\endgroup$ – Tristan Aug 11 '16 at 16:20
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There is a minimal life support system, in the sense that it is pressurized and they carry animal experiments that do not have their own life support systems. But it is not designed to handle the load a full crew were generate.

Musk has said that had a person been aboard they would have been fine, on earlier Dragon flights.

To meet NASA's requirements they need an abort system, which is being added in Dragon V2.

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  • $\begingroup$ Musk says a lot of things. We know it can support cheese. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Aug 11 '16 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Witness the power of this fully operationl cheese wheel! I find your lack of faith in the cheese disturbing $\endgroup$ – geoffc Aug 11 '16 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ The question is about getting astronauts FROM space. The abort mechanism is only for getting them TO space. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Aug 12 '16 at 1:56
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It is only equipped to go into space but not out of space, you would need much more than just a room and parachutes to touch down safely.

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    $\begingroup$ It is equipped to go out of space. Dragon is used to return material from ISS. $\endgroup$ – Tom11 Aug 11 '16 at 10:12

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