Dragon splashes down with mouse-tronauts

Dragon's departure
SpaceX’s robotic Dragon cargo capsule backs away from the International Space Station after its release by the station’s robotic arm. (NASA TV)

SpaceX’s robotic Dragon capsule was set loose from the International Space Station today and returned to Earth with more than 3,800 pounds of cargo and experiments, including a set of live mice that will be studied after their stint in zero gravity.

The trip marked the completion of SpaceX’s 12th space station resupply mission under the terms of its multibillion-dollar contract with NASA. “Godspeed, Dragon 12,” Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli said as the Dragon was released by the station’s robotic arm.

Dragon’s parachute-assisted Pacific Ocean splashdown came five and a half hours later, at around 7:15 a.m. PT off the coast of Southern California. A recovery ship was sent to pick up the capsule and bring it back to Long Beach for shipment to SpaceX’s processing facility in Texas. The mice and other time-sensitive payloads will be delivered to NASA on an expedited basis.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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