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May 21, 1:53 PM EDT

Back home on Earth: SpaceX craft returns from space station


AP Photo
AP Photo

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- A SpaceX Dragon capsule is back on Earth with a full load of cargo, after a quick trip home from the International Space Station.

The capsule, containing more than 3,000 pounds of experiments and equipment, splashed into the Pacific just off the Southern California coast Thursday less than six hours following its station departure.

"Congrats!" Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said via Twitter from the space station.

NASA expects to receive its precious science samples within two days, after the spacecraft is transported to a port near Los Angeles.

The Dragon capsule arrived at the orbiting lab last month, bearing much-needed groceries and other goods for Cristoforetti and the five other station residents. The astronauts refilled the capsule with science experiments and samples for the trip home, including roundworms that were part of studies on muscles and aging.

The California-based SpaceX company is NASA's only means of getting supplies to the 260-mile-high station, ever since last year's loss of an Orbital Sciences Corp. craft in a Virginia launch explosion.

More recently, a Russian supply ship went into an uncontrollable spin after liftoff and was destroyed upon re-entry earlier this month, its entire contents undelivered.

SpaceX will attempt to launch another shipment June 26 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Online:

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/

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