SpaceX's cargo mission (CRS-24) launched on December 22 last year has now returned with scientific equipment and experiments that were onboard the International Space Station (ISS), the private space company confirmed in a tweet. The return was originally scheduled for January 22 but was put off due to bad weather at the splashdown site off Florida's coast.
At 10:40 am, the cargo ship exited the 'keep out sphere,' a 656-feet (200 m) sphere around the ISS, and was broadcasted live by NASA TV. During the transmission, NASA's mission control said that the ship was bringing back 4,900 pounds (2,222 kg) of 'cargo and research' along with medical supplies. The reentry and parachute-assisted splashdown were not broadcasted live but confirmed by SpaceX on its Twitter handle.
Splashdown of Dragon confirmed, completing SpaceX’s 24th resupply mission to the @space_station!— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 24, 2022
According to NASA's blog post on January 20, among the things the cargo ship brought back were the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) that was sent to the station in 2009 and has been assisting onboard researchers to observe matter at a microscopic level. Apart from observing colloidal solutions in consumer products, scientists have also used it to study plants in microgravity.
The InSPACE-4 module that also studied the assembly of tiny structures in colloidal solutions also returned during this trip. Experiments conducted on this module were observed from Earth via video link and learnings have potential applications such as using nanoparticles to make new materials, making sensors for human and robotic applications, building thermal shields, sound damping devices, as well as building foundations, NASA said in its post.
Once Dragon has been retrieved by SpaceX’s recovery team, the critical science aboard the spacecraft will be transported by helicopter to @NASAKennedy and provided to researchers— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 24, 2022
The third notable experiment that returned to the Earth belongs to the European Space Agency (ESA) and is called the cytoskeleton. A block that looks much like a circuit board but with massive pieces of electronics on it, was designed to understand the role of gravity in cell signaling in the human body. The setup consisted of a molecular switch called RhoGTPases that is involved cell division, gene expression, and giving the cells their shape, hence the name.
The splashdown was planned near the coast of Florida to enable recovery and quick return of the research experiments to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida so that the effect of gravity is minimal, the blog post said and SpaceX duly followed.