SpaceX Cargo Craft Departs International Space Station Mar 20, 2017

The SpaceX Dragon capsule left the International Space Station (ISS) early Sunday morning, bringing scientific experiments back to earth for investigation by NASA scientists. Dragon spent three weeks at the station.

[Credit: NASA via Storyful]

The capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean later Sunday morning. It brought back more than 5,400 pounds of experiments, samples and gear from the ISS. Dragon splashed down off the coast of Baja California and is headed back to NASA.

On February 19, Dragon was sent into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center. It brought nearly 5,500 lbs of cargo, including new equipment and supplies, to the ISS.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet from France and Shane Kimbrough of NASA released the capsule using a robotic arm.  Dragon is headed to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas for processing, unloading of scientific samples, and returning station hardware.

A variety of technological and biological studies are returning in Dragon. The Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells investigation had crew members observe cell growth and other characteristics in microgravity. This information will provide insight into how human cancers start and spread, which aids in the development of prevention and treatment plans. Results from this investigation could lead to the treatment of disease and injury in space, as well as provide a way to improve stem cell production for human therapy on Earth.

Samples from the Tissue Regeneration-Bone Defect study, a U.S. National Laboratory investigation sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, studied what prevents vertebrates such as rodents and humans from re-growing lost bone and tissue, and how microgravity conditions impact the process. Results will provide a new understanding of the biological reasons behind a human’s inability to grow a lost limb at the wound site, and could lead to new treatment options for the more than 30 percent of the patient population who do not respond to current options for chronic non-healing wounds.

Several external payloads were removed from the space station and placed in the Dragon’s trunk for disposal. The Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) device tested the potential for using a laser to transmit data to Earth from space, indicating that high speed space to ground optical communications are possible from a fast moving spacecraft. The Materials on International Space Station Experiment tested the radiation tolerance of a computer built from radiation-tolerant material to simulate work for a future long-term space mission. The Robotic Refueling Mission Phase 2 tested new technologies, tools and techniques that could eventually give satellite owners resources to diagnose problems on orbit, repair failures, and keep certain spacecraft instruments performing longer in space.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels

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