Full Dragon exits space station, Earth next stop

October 28, 2012 by Marcia Dunn

(AP)—An unmanned Dragon freighter left the International Space Station on Sunday with a stash of precious medical samples and aimed for a Pacific splashdown to end the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

Astronauts aboard the used a giant to release the commercial cargo ship from 255 miles (410 kilometers) up in space. The California-based privately owned SpaceX company will steer its capsule back to Earth via parachutes on Sunday afternoon, a couple of hundred miles (900 kilometers) off the Baja California coast.

The supply ship is bringing back nearly 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of science experiments and old station equipment. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited cargo is nearly 500 frozen samples of blood and urine collected by station astronauts over the past year.

The Dragon is the only delivery ship capable of returning items, now that NASA's shuttles are retired to museums. Atlantis made the last shuttle haul to and from the station in July 2011.

SpaceX—more formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp.—launched the capsule three weeks ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida, full of groceries, clothes and other station supplies. Ice cream as well as fresh apples were especially appreciated by the station residents, now back up to a full crew of six.

It's the second Dragon to return from the orbiting lab; the first mission in May was a flight demo. This flight is the first of 12 deliveries under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.

"It was nice while she was on board," space station commander Sunita Williams said as the Dragon backed away. "We tamed her, took her home and, literally and figuratively, there's a piece of us on that spacecraft going home to Earth."

She added to the SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California: "Congratulations Hawthorne and thank you for her."

The Dragon will be retrieved from the Pacific and loaded onto a 100-foot (30-meter) boat that will haul it to Los Angeles. From there, it will be transported to McGregor, Texas.

The medical samples will be removed as quickly as possible, and turned over to NASA within 48 hours of splashdown, according to SpaceX. Everything else will wait for unloading in McGregor.

A Russian supply ship, meanwhile, is set to blast off this week. It burns up upon descent, however, at mission's end. So do the cargo vessels provided by Europe and Japan.

SpaceX is working to transform its Dragon cargo craft into vessels that American astronauts could fly in another four or five years. Until SpaceX or another U.S. company is able to provide rides, NASA astronauts must rely on Russian rockets to get to and from the .

Explore further: First commercial cargo run to space station April 30

0 shares

Related Stories

Recommended for you

First stars formed even later than previously thought

August 31, 2016

ESA's Planck satellite has revealed that the first stars in the Universe started forming later than previous observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background indicated. This new analysis also shows that these stars were the ...

Dawn sets course for higher orbit

August 31, 2016

After studying Ceres for more than eight months from its low-altitude science orbit, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will move higher up for different views of the dwarf planet.

Galaxy cluster discovered at record-breaking distance

August 31, 2016

A new record for the most distant galaxy cluster has been set using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. This galaxy cluster may have been caught right after birth, a brief, but important stage of evolution ...

The rise and fall of galaxy formation

August 30, 2016

An international team of astronomers, including Carnegie's Eric Persson, has charted the rise and fall of galaxies over 90 percent of cosmic history. Their work, which includes some of the most sensitive astronomical measurements ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wavettore
1 / 5 (7) Oct 28, 2012
New and old Science

A new and Progressive Science shows how Wavevolution, or the transformation from waves to atoms, is the connecting link that closes the circle of science to open our eyes toward new horizons never seen before.

The bureaucracy of traditional science prevents the recognition of any event unless certain criteria are first met. The problem of this science is buried deep in the compilation of these "laws" or criteria introduced by a few scientists in the name of all science and from their erroneous understanding of the relation between Space and Time. This antiquated system of rules also results in misleading theories.
DirtySquirties
2 / 5 (4) Oct 29, 2012
@wavettore: What the f--- you talkin' bout?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.