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Dragon Capsule Returns from Space with Splash Landing

Enlarge Image credit: SpaceX/Michael Altenhofen MORE IMAGES

The SpaceX Dragon capsule parachuted to a splash landing in the Pacific Ocean on the morning of May 31, having completed its mission of cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Dragon was the first privately operated craft to dock with the ISS, heralding the arrival of a newcomer to the game long dominated by national space agencies such as NASA and Russia's Roscosmos. SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., and helmed by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, is in line to make 12 cargo runs to the station in the next few years under a $1.6-billion contract with NASA.

NASA and SpaceX reported that the capsule landed near its target splashdown point, about 900 kilometers off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. The Dragon will be hauled out of the ocean by recovery boats, ferried to dry land and unloaded. It contains hardware and cargo no longer needed on the ISS, as well as science experiments that had been carried out in the station's unique microgravity environment.

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