The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship that arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on July 2, after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 29, has finally come back home.
The spacecraft has been prepped for the return to Earth since yesterday, when the astronauts on board the ISS finished loading up the capsule with all the important cargo destined for the trip home.
"The Expedition 56 crew has finished loading Dragon with sensitive research results and station gear for analysis and refurbishment back on Earth," showed a NASA blog post on August 2.
The cargo resupply vehicle departed from the ISS at 12:38 p.m. EDT, after ground controllers remotely detached it from the station's Harmony module using the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
According to NASA, the entire procedure was overseen by U.S. astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor — who has been living and working on board the ISS for almost two months now, after arriving at the space station in early June, the Inquisitr reported at the time.
From their headquarters in Hawthorne, California, SpaceX flight controllers commanded Dragon to perform three departure burns, firing its thrusters to maneuver itself at a safe distance from the ISS and begin the journey home.
"After a month-long stay, Dragon is preparing to depart the space station and return to Earth today," SpaceX announced on Twitter at 12.35 p.m. EDT, and then proceeded to give a play-by-play of the entire journey, culminating with Dragon's splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.Dragon completed its deorbit burn at around 5:40 p.m. EDT and deployed both its drogue and main parachutes without any difficulty. The cargo pod splashed down in the Pacific at around 6.30 p.m. EDT, landing off the coast of Baja California.
"Splashdown of Dragon confirmed. Recovery team en route," SpaceX tweeted at 6.32 p.m.
While the spacecraft set out to deliver more than 5,900 pounds of science gear and supplies to the astronauts of Expedition 56, Dragon has returned home with a considerably lighter payload.
The cargo vessel carried more than 3,800 pounds of science experiments and equipment back to Earth, which the SpaceX recovery team rushed to retrieve.
"NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown," space agency officials wrote in a news release.
Three Key Experiments
Among these experiments is an investigation carried out on endothelial cells, the tissue that lines blood vessels and the organs, and which have been grown in microgravity in order to test the efficacy of a new tumor treatment known as the Angiex Cancer Therapy, NASA explained.Growing these cells in space and using them as a test model for the new drug circumvents the need for animal testing, the space agency noted.
Another delicate experiment that needs to be processed immediately is the Space Algae investigation, which sequenced the genome of space-grown algae with the hope that they could one day "help mitigate the harmful effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation during spaceflight," NASA pointed out.
Last but not least, the Micro-12 experiment examined how zero-g affects a particular bacterium that might be used to waste organic material into electricity.
Not Their First Space Rodeo
The Dragon cargo ship traveled to the ISS on SpaceX's 15th resupply mission (CRS-15), the Inquisitr previously reported. Both the Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket that delivered it into space had been flown before.
The same Dragon spacecraft was used on a supply run to the space station in July 2016. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 that took off on CRS-15 also launched NASA's TESS exoplanet-hunting satellite on April 18.