SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship splashes down in Pacific

August 26, 2016
SpaceX's Dragon, pictured on July 20, 2016 at the International Space Station, is the only cargo carrier in use that can return gear to Earth. Others, such as Orbital ATK's Cygnus, burn up on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere

SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship splashed down Friday in the Pacific Ocean, returning a load of NASA research from the International Space Station, the US space agency said.

The capsule returned to Earth at 11:47 am (1547 GMT) southwest of the Mexican state of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of cargo.

Some of the experiments conducted on board should enable scientists to better understand the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body, as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration works toward its goal of sending people to Mars by the 2030s.

One examined how microgravity affects human heart cells, while another used lab mice to study how spaceflight affects DNA.

The return of the spacecraft caps the ninth resupply mission for the California-based SpaceX under a contract to ferry goods to the astronauts living at the ISS.

The Dragon launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, last month and arrived at the July 20, carrying the first of two docking adaptors to allow commercial spacecraft to park at the space station in the coming years.

SpaceX's Dragon is the only cargo carrier in use that can return gear to Earth. Others, such as Orbital ATK's Cygnus, burn up on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere.

Explore further: SpaceX Dragon heads back to Earth with station science, gear

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4.2 / 5 (6) Aug 26, 2016
SpaceX has done more for manned spaceflight in 4 years than NASA and the Pentagon have in over 40 years. Currently, though it is seldom mentioned in the press, SpaceX is the only launch provider that can return any substantial amount of cargo from the ISS to Earth. And, in an emergency, SpaceX could use the Dragon cargo capsule to bring home all seven astronauts in one load. Since the retirement of the disastrous Space Shuttle, there is no other launch provider which can do this. It would actually take three Soyuz capsules to do the same thing. I am very proud of what SpaceX has been able to achieve in such a short time. And the SpaceX winning streak is likely to continue. I say this not because of the innovation involved, but that the decision cycle at NASA (and the Pentagon) is 12-15 years whereas the same decision cycle at SpaceX takes less than six months. If you want to see how this costs NASA dearly, look at how far behind the technology curve the Space Shuttle was.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2016
I think that was inevitable. Government agencies simply don't have sufficient motivation to do things quickly and efficiently. Even correctly in some instances.
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 27, 2016
Well, let's all beat up on NASA, the victim of politics, shall we?

The Shuttle was forced on NASA by the Pentagon, the only unit wanting low-orbital technology. Get the hateful and hawkish conservatives out of science policy.

5 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2016
Space-X's ability to land a launch vehicle makes a truly incredible cut to the cost of orbital flight. I recall seeing that it's $200k in chemicals and the rest of the cost is the rocket itself. With an advance like that, we might actually get some of our species off this little rock ...
not rated yet Aug 29, 2016
Didn't NASA have a sub-scale, sub-orbital VTOL rocket to play with ? But, after several increasingly encouraging test-flights, the ground-crew failed to connect part of the landing gear so it landed correctly, then toppled over and exploded ?
1 / 5 (4) Aug 29, 2016
Are you referring to the M2-F2? It was unpowered, and crashed on landing, which was the intro to the Tee-Vee series Six Million Dollar Man.

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