After spending more than a month at the International Space Station, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is back on Earth. On Saturday, it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. A boat carried the spacecraft back to Los Angles, where the various experiment results and gear will be removed and sent back to NASA.
“This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters. “The delivery of the ISS RapidScatterometer advances our understanding of Earth science, and the 3-D printer will enable a critical technology demonstration. Investigations in the returned cargo could aid in the development of more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, the development of plants better suited for space, and improvements in sustainable agriculture.”
Other experiments that came back includes part of the Rodent Research-1 experiment. This experiment continues to support ongoing research into the effects of microgravity on animals.
As for the Dragon capsule? It will return to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas for processing.
NASA relies heavily on SpaceX not only for transporting gear to the ISS, but bringing some back. The Dragon capsule is the only spacecraft right now that can bring gear from the ISS back to Earth.
Saturday’s detachment of the Dragon capsule begins a week full of incoming and outgoing spacecraft at the ISS. Tonight, Orbital Sciences is scheduled to launch its Cygnus capsule from the Wallops Island space center on the Virginia coast. Residents in the area will be in for a show as the launch will be visible. Hopefully, the weather cooperates.
On Wednesday, Russian cargo ship Progress will make its way towards the ISS. It replace another Russian cargo ship scheduled for release today.
November will also bring some personnel changes to the ISS. Half of the crew will be heading back home on November 9 in a Russian Soyuz craft. On November 23, a Russian and two Americans will arrive to take their place.
No rest for the weary for the crew of the ISS. Maybe Christmas will bring quieter times for the crew.
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