After bringing nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station last month, SpaceX Dragon returned to Earth bringing with it 4,000 pounds of science experiments.
The partially reusable spacecraft is property of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and was launched on the 21st of September, on a mission to bring over 5,000 pounds of supplies to astronauts on the International Space Station. Last month’s transport included a 3D printer that astronauts hope to use in their maintenance efforts at the ISS.
For the past month, SpaceX’s Dragon has been in low Earth orbit at the space station, however, on Saturday, Oct. 25, the spacecraft finally landed in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico’s coast. Last month’s trip was the fourth resupply to the International Space Station under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) $1.6 billion contract with SpaceX. The contract involves a total of 12 resupply missions.
“This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space,”
Sam Scimemi, ISS division Director said.
With its fourth supply trip, the SpaceX spacecraft brought approximately 5,000 pounds of supplies, from an experimental 3D printer designed to work in low-gravity environments to mice intended for experimental use in studies on bone and muscle loss during long space flights. The spacecraft also brought two Extravehicular Mobility Unit batteries, which supply power to communication devices as well as the oxygen circulation systems that space suits are equipped with. These newly delivered batteries have already been put to good use during two spacewalks at the ISS.
With its return-flight, the capsule brought back the Rodent Research-1 experiment (which had been brought to the space station last month) as well as an Arugula Pant Growth study aimed at investigating the effects of micro-nutrients and microgravity on arugula seedlings grown in space. The study could help scientists develop ways of growing highly nutritious plants in low-gravity environments and it may also allow astronauts to grow their own fresh food in future space travels.
“Investigations in the returned cargo could aid in the development of more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, the development of plants better suited for space, and improvements in sustainable agriculture.”
SpaceX Dragon is currently the only such cargo spacecraft servicing the International Space Station which can return cargos and scientific experiments intact on Earth, so that scientists can analyze the results.
“It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth. Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans.”
SpaceX said when describing the spacecraft.