March 27, 2013 in Nation/World

Privately owned capsule splashes down on target

Marcia Dunn Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft as it is backed away from the International Space Station early Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

More cargo missions ahead

The just-completed resupply-and-cargo-return mission was SpaceX’s second of 12 under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. With the space shuttles retired, NASA wants to turn over the job of carrying cargo and crews into space to private industry. The SpaceX Dragon capsule currently is the only supply ship capable of two-way delivery. SpaceX’s next flight is slated for late fall.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The SpaceX Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Tuesday with a full science load from the International Space Station – and a bunch of well-used children’s Legos.

The privately owned cargo ship splashed down in the Pacific right on target, 250 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, five hours after leaving the orbiting lab.

The capsule brought back more than 1 ton of science experiments and old station equipment, as well as 13 toy sets of Lego building blocks that were used by space station crews over the past couple years to teach children about science.

Earlier in the day, astronauts released the unmanned capsule from the end of the space station’s giant robot arm. The 250-mile-high parting was a poignant moment for the three space station’s residents, who helped to snare the Dragon three weeks earlier.

“Sad to see the Dragon go,” astronaut Thomas Marshburn told Mission Control. “Performed her job beautifully. Heading back to her lair. Wish her all the best for the splashdown today.”

The Dragon used old-NASA-style parachutes to plop into the ocean; company officials indicated all appeared to go well during the re-entry.

SpaceX launched the capsule from Cape Canaveral at the beginning of March. Mechanical trouble delayed the capsule’s arrival at the space station by a day. SpaceX flight controllers at company headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., managed to fix the problem within hours.

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