Filled with more than 3,700 pounds of hardware and critical science experiments, the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft left the International Space Station, headed for a deorbit and a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. Dragon arrived at the station on Sept. 23 on the fourth resupply mission to the outpost for the U.S. commercial firm. Dragon is the only cargo vehicle servicing the space station that can return cargo and scientific experiments back to Earth intact for researchers to retrieve for post-flight analysis.
It’s the fourth of 12 resupply missions contracted to SpaceX, and having this one go off without a hitch is a good stepping stone toward manned flight, for a company that’s had a few reliability problems. [Reuters]