Mission CRS-6 accomplished: the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has come back to Earth

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft about to splash down at the end of its CRS-6 mission (Photo courtesy SpaceX. All rights reserved)
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft about to splash down at the end of its CRS-6 mission (Photo courtesy SpaceX. All rights reserved)

A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft ended its CRS-6 (Cargo Resupply Service 6) mission for NASA splashing down without problems in the Pacific Ocean a little more than 200 km (a little more than 150 miles) off the coast of California. The Dragon left the International Space Station a few hours earlier.

Shortly after landing, the SpaceX Dragon boats went to retrieve it to transport it to the coast. The cargo brought back to Earth will be delivered to NASA soon, probably tomorrow. The Dragon spacecraft reached the International Space Station on April 17, 2015.

The Dragon spacecraft brought back to Earth about 1,400 kg (3,100 lbs) of mixed cargo that include biological samples and various scientific experiments. Part of the samples are contained in the freezers because they need to be keep them at low temperatures. Some experiments were devised by non-profit organizations that work with NASA in scientific and educational programs.

Winithn the cargo there are also round worms of the species Caenorhabditis elegans, nematodes used for biological experiments as a model for larger organisms. These tiny worms spent a few weeks on the International Space Station, where they arrived last month, again on the Dragon. Upon returning to Earth they’ll be examined thoroughly in some investigations carried out in particular by JAXA, the Japanese space agency.

SpaceX is the only American company to have a spaceship able to bring back to Earth intact cargo so the Dragon’s missions are really important for NASA. A precise date hasn’t been scheduled yet for Orbital ATK spaceship Cygnus to resume its resupply missions to the International Space Station after the October 2014 mishap. The consequence is that the Dragon is also the only American cargo spacecraft currently active.

The next resupply mission for the Dragon cargo spacecraft could already begin by the end of June, although launch dates are always approximate. For the moment they have to verify that the samples and the experiments have come back to Earth undamaged.


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