SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 4:05 p.m. EST off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 24th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft carried more than 4,900 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth.
Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the experiments to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, allowing researchers to collect data with minimal sample exposure to Earth’s gravity.
Some of the scientific investigations that Dragon will return to Earth include:
- Last light: A state-of-the-art light imaging microscope, the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) will return after about 12 years on the station. LMM, sponsored by NASA’s Division of Biological and Physical Sciences, made it possible to observe and record the way matter is organized and moves on the microscopic level, and supported ground-breaking colloid research, plant studies, and thermophysics experiments.
- Tiny structures, assemble: The InSPACE-4 physics study is returning samples that could provide insight into how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials, including medical diagnostics and thermal shields for Earth and space applications.
- Cell signaling in microgravity: The ESA (European Space Agency) investigation Cytoskeleton contributes to understanding of how the human body responds to microgravity. The study could support development of countermeasures to help astronaut crew members maintain optimum health on future space missions.