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SpaceX Cargo Dragon Capsule Splashes Down to Earth

Loaded with scientific experiments, the capsule landed safely after leaving the ISS.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon Capsule Splashes Down to Earth
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SpaceX's upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down on Earth and off Florida's coast into the Atlantic Ocean at 8:26 PM EST on Wednesday.

The successful splashdown marked the 21st return of SpaceX's contracted cargo CRS-21 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA, as the space agency reported in its blog.

This also marked the company's upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft's first splashdown into the Atlantic.

SEE ALSO: SPACEX'S CREW DRAGON SEES LEGACY-TIER CARGO UPGRADE, IMPROVES NASA CULTURE

The Dragon cargo spacecraft transported over 4,400 pounds (1,995 kg) of important scientific experiments, as well as other cargo, from the ISS to Earth.

Previous Dragon cargo missions have seen splashdowns into the Pacific Ocean, but this upgraded version of the Dragon cargo vessel was planned to touch back down into the Atlantic, closer to NASA's science processing Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Space.com reported.

Not only was the CRS-21 mission's upgraded vessel the first to land in the Atlantic, but it was also the first to autonomously dock and undock from the ISS. Other Cargo Dragon capsules have previously required astronauts to manually operate the ISS's robotic arm to grab and berth the spacecraft.

Moreover, SpaceX's upgraded cargo craft is built with double the powered locker space as older Dragon capsules, which means more scientific experiments can be transported to and back from the ISS. As NASA mentioned, some scientists will hold their returned experiments as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown, integral in keeping optimal microgravity conditions. 

Some of the returned ISS experiments include the Cardinal Heart research, which examines whether microgravity changes the heart, and Rodent Research-23, which observes how mice's eye structure changes pre- and post-spaceflight. 

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The next SpaceX resupply mission is set for May, called CRS-22.

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