SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule Returns Safely to Earth

/ 4 years ago

SpaceX's Dragon Capsule Returns Safely to Earth

Last month, SpaceX resumed their missions to supply the International Space Station using their Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules. Now, the pod that was carried into space by the first Falcon 9 to land at sea has safely returned to Earth after a month-long stay at the ISS, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:51PM ET.

The Dragon capsule contains 3,700 pounds of materials from the ISS, including a special cargo of biological samples from astronaut Scott Kelly. These samples are valuable in order to help scientists understand the changes that Kelly’s body went through during his marathon 340 days in space aboard the ISS.

Astronauts aboard the ISS were tasked with packing up the Dragon capsule on Monday and Tuesday, ahead of plans for the capsule to return on Wednesday. The capsule was then detached from the ISS using the station’s robotic arm and at 9:18AM ET, astronaut Tim Peake released the capsule from the arm and fired its thrusters to drive it away from the station. By 2PM, the capsule began to drop itself out of orbit and from there rapidly returned to Earth courtesy of gravity. Soon afterwards, parachutes were deployed to arrest the speed of the capsule’s descent, allowing it to land safely in the Pacific Ocean. Splashdowns at sea are a common way of returning capsules to Earth, however, SpaceX’s proposed Crew Dragon capsule hopes to be able to land safely even on solid ground thanks to the thrusters on board the capsule.

The next step for the capsule is a far more sedate return to land via ship, where its contents will be emptied at Long Beach, California before finally being sent off to SpaceX’s Texas testing facility.

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