SpaceX Dragon Returns to Earth, Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean

In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule is berthed at the International Space Station Sunday April 20, 2014 as photographed by the Expedition 39 crew members onboard the orbital outpost.

The privately funded Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday afternoon, after leaving the International Space Station earlier in the morning.
Dragon was released from the ISS' robotic arm at 9:26 a.m. ET, according to NASA, and made contact with the Pacific Ocean at 3:05 p.m. ET, 300 miles off the west coast of Baja California.

Dragon developer SpaceX tweeted photos of the spacecraft leaving the ISS. Dragon was sent to resupply the space station, and bring other supplies home.

Dragon's next steps included orbiting the Earth for about five hours, according to news site NASA Space Flight, after which it conducted a deorbit burn just after 2 p.m. ET.
Here's how NASA describes a deorbit burn:
When it is time to return to Earth, the orbiter is rotated tail-first into the direction of travel to prepare for another firing of the orbital maneuvering system engines. This firing is called the deorbit burn.
Dragon then re-entered the atmosphere, and deployed its parachutes, before touching down in the Pacific Ocean.

A boat will transport Dragon to California, where teams will unload its cargo, before returning the spacecraft to SpaceX's rocket-development facility in McGregor, Texas.
The unmanned spacecraft brought home more than 3,500 pounds of scientific supplies, including "samples from biology, biotechnology and physical science investigations, as well as human research," according to NASA.
"The space station is our springboard to deep space, and the science samples returned to Earth are critical to improving our knowledge of how space affects humans who live and work there for long durations," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in a NASA release. "Now that Dragon has returned, scientists can complete their analyses, so we can see how results may impact future human space exploration or provide direct benefits to people on Earth."
One of the studies done aboard the ISS included examining drug-resistant bacteria in microgravity, as previous experiments had found that antibiotics were less effective in space. NASA said these experiments could lead to creating more effective antibiotics on Earth.
Sunday's mission was the third of 12 cargo-resupply trips that SpaceX will make to the ISS, under a contract the company holds with NASA that extends until 2016.

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