Full Dragon exits space station, Earth next stop

Oct 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: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

4.3 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

18 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

Jul 27, 2014

Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station.

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Jul 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

Jul 25, 2014

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

Jul 25, 2014

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

User comments : 2

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?