SpaceX Dragon splashes down in Pacific after departing ISS
Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013 8:06AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 26, 2013 2:21PM EDT
The SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after pulling out of orbit and passing through the Earth's atmosphere Tuesday.
The unmanned commercial supply ship was unberthed from the International Space Station by Canadarm2 at 4:10 a.m. ET, and released at 6:56 a.m. In images recorded by NASA cameras, the capsule could be seen slowly disappearing into the darkness as it moved away from the ISS.
A few hours later it fired up its engines for a final deorbit burn.
The Dragon capsule is carrying a precious cargo of science experiments conducted by astronauts in recent months.
"SPLASHDOWN! At 9:34am PT, #Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific. Welcome home!" said a tweet posed by @NASA.
NASA said on its website a team of scientists, technicians, and divers are expected to take approximately 30 hours to locate, collect and return the capsule to shore from its landing point near Baja, Calif.
The capsule, which is owned and operated by California-based SpaceX, carried 575 kg of equipment and supplies when it travelled to the ISS on March 3. It returns home with a heavier load -- 1,210 kg of materials from science experiments conducted in space.
In addition to the science materials sent to space on Dragon, the capsule also carried fresh fruit, peanut butter, letters from friends and family and new clothes.
Canadian Chris Hadfield, who is currently in command of the ISS, displayed one of the fresh apples in a photo he tweeted from space shortly after Dragon arrived. He attached Velcro to the apple, joking that it allowed him to set it down between bites, without having to chase it around in the zero-gravity environment.
The Dragon capsule was originally scheduled to return to Earth on Monday, but was delayed by bad weather.
SpaceX has a billion-dollar contract with NASA to perform supply runs to the massive International Space Station. In total 12 commercial supply runs are planned.
On Thursday, three new crew members will board a Soyuz rocket and travel to the ISS to join Hadfield's crew. Chris Cassidy, an American, and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin will be making the trip.
Vinogradov will be taking over command from Hadfield in May when the current crew heads home.