SpaceX Dragon returns with study results

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After a month-long stay at the International Space Station (ISS), the cargo space ship named Dragon of Space Exploration Technologies on Saturday splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico on schedule bringing with it research results.

Astronauts Barry Wilmore and Reid Wiseman of American space agency NASA released the capsule with the help of the space station’s robotic crane at 9:57 a.m. EDT as both the vehicles soared 418 km over Australia’s northwest coast.

The California-based SpaceX built and operated the capsule.

Soon after Dragon was free, mission commentator Rob Navias announced the same on NASA TV.

The capsule descended with the aid of a parachute into the Pacific Ocean at 3:38 pm EDT slightly west of Baja California, Mexico.

It brought back 1,724 kg of equipment and science experiments that were no longer necessary aboard the space station.

On September 21, the Dragon blasted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It carried a 2,268 kg cargo containing supplies, food and equipment including a prototype 3D printer.

In addition, it also carried 20 live mice, which were used for medical experiments, to assess muscle and bone loss during the long duration of the space flight.

Further, it delivered a $26 million payload of NASA’s science instrument named RapidScat, which was attached to the station from outside for measuring the speeds of the wind over the oceans.

The lab mice happen to be the first live mammals to fly aboard a commercial cargo spacecraft. The mice were enclosed in a special research cage made by NASA for monitoring the impact of weightlessness on their tiny bodies.

Meanwhile, the 3-D printer demonstrated as to how the technology could be used in space where there is gravity to help in the process of printing.

Dragon’s mission happens to be the fourth of 12 as part of SpaceX’s $1.6 billion deal with NASA for running station cargo.

NASA had recently selected two companies and SpaceX is one of them. The contract was also to manufacture capsules to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. It also involved a $100 bn research laboratory that’s owned and operated by a coalition of 15 countries.

The next resupply mission of SpaceX to the space station is scheduled for December 9.

On Monday (October 27, 2021), the US space agency’s second space station cargo shipper named Orbital Sciences Corp is set to launch its rocket identified as Antares and Cygnus freighter from Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Cygnus is scheduled to dock with ISS on November 2 at the same location that had held Dragon.

The SpaceX vessel happens to be the only spacecraft that is currently capable of coming back with cargo. Its previous mission to ISS was during April this year.

Also on Wednesday, Russia’s cargo ship Progress is scheduled to take off for ISS, It is expected to take the place of another Russian space vehicle, which is scheduled to break away from ISS to come back to Earth on Monday (October 27, 2021).

A few weeks later, at least three of the six ISS crew members will be leaving the lab after staying for 165 days in orbit.

NASA has funded private companies to restore American access to the ISS. And in 2010, SpaceX, owned by Internet mogul Elon Musk, had become the first private American company to fly out a spaceship to the ISS.

Musk, who had accumulated his fortune after he co-founded PayPal, also operates Tesla Motors.


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