Critical NASA Science Returns to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft


WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS).

A boat will take the Dragon spacecraft to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA within 48 hours. Dragon will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

“This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters. “The delivery of the ISS RapidScatterometer advances our understanding of Earth science, and the 3-D printer will enable a critical technology demonstration. Investigations in the returned cargo could aid in the development of more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, the development of plants better suited for space, and improvements in sustainable agriculture.”

Among the returned investigations was part of the Rodent Research-1 experiment, which also launched last month to space aboard this Dragon. This study supports ongoing research into how microgravity affects animals, providing information relevant to human spaceflight, discoveries in basic biology, and knowledge that may direct affect human health on Earth. NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) are developing spaceflight experiments that will use the Rodent Research Hardware System.

When returned, data from the Fundamental and Applied Studies of Emulsion Stability (FASES) investigation will be processed to help determine the physical principles which play a part in stabilizing different emulsions and the compounds that influenced those emulsions while in orbit. Emulsions are mixtures of two or more liquids where one liquid is present in droplet form and distributed throughout the other liquid; common emulsions include milk, mayonnaise and paint.

NanoRacks-Girl Scouts of Hawai’i-Arugula Plant Growth study was returned to Earth, as well. This study seeks to determine the impact that various nutrients and microgravity have on the growth and nutritious value of arugula seedlings grown in space. The goal of the study is to develop better ways to grow plants with a high nutritional content in the space environment. If the study samples have a high nutrition value, this may enable NASA and astronauts to grow and consume fresh, healthy food during future space travel.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return a significant amount of cargo to Earth. The spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 21 carrying almost 5,000 pounds of supplies and elements to support 255 scientific investigations the crew members of Expeditions 41 and 42 will conduct. The mission was the fourth of 12 cargo resupply trips SpaceX will make to the space station through 2016 under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

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