A private SpaceX Dragon capsule dropped into the Pacific Ocean Saturday, returning almost 2 tons of cargo and science experiments to Earth from the International Space Station.
The unmanned Dragon was released from the space station at 9:57 a.m. EDT, followed by a parachute-guided splashdown west of Baja California, which was confirmed around 3:38 p.m. EDT. This marked an end to SpaceX’s fourth of 12 unmanned delivery missions to the space station for NASA under a $1.6 billion contract.
— Aashik KC (@KcAashik) October 27, 2014
SpaceX Dragon had been attached to the orbiting lab for a little over a month. The supply ship launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 21 where it spent two days chasing the space station in orbit before docking with the astronaut outpost on Sept. 23, with 2.5 tons of food, supplies, and critical science experiments in tow. This included the first 3D printer in space and a group of 20 mice to live in a new rodent habitat.
The astronauts living and working on board the ISS finished packing the Dragon on Friday, October 24. NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Reid Wiseman maneuvered the robotic arm attached to the space station to unbolt the Dragon for its trip back to Earth Saturday.
Dragon is the only cargo ship that returns items back to Earth intact. After the capsule is brought back to port in California, it will be shipped to a SpaceX processing facility in McGregor, Texas reports Christian Science Monitor.
Dragon had expected to return some of the experiments it had brought to space – which included a batch of mutant, stress-resistant fruit flies and the first test parts created in the 3D printer, built by the California-based company Made In Space. The SpaceX Dragon was also expected to return a small crop of lettuce grown in space as part of NASA’s Veg-01 experiment, first brought to the space station during the last SpaceX resupply mission in April.
In Total, Dragon returned to Earth Saturday with 3,276 pounds of cargo and science experiments, SpaceX representatives confirmed.