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SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth after historic mission


Dragon Spacecraft with Solar Panels deployed. Photo: SpaceX.

WASHINGTON (AFP): The Dragon cargo capsule owned by US company SpaceX Thursday made a splash landing in the Pacific Ocean after a landmark mission to the International Space Station, NASA said.

"Dragon is in the water," NASA said after SpaceX informed the US space agency of a splash landing at 11:42 am Eastern time (2012 IST), two minutes ahead of schedule.

The vessel was supposed to land 900 kilometres off the coast of Baja, California, according to NASA, though a more precise location was expected to come shortly from SpaceX.

"Splashdown! SpaceX Dragon capsule safely down in Pacific Ocean -- ending first mission by a commercial company to resupply the ISS," NASA said in a message on the microblogging site Twitter.

The safe return of the vessel followed a near flawless mission to deliver cargo to the USD 100 billion orbiting outpost, marking the first time a commercial outfit has sent its own capsule there and back.

NASA and US leaders have applauded the mission, which began on May 22, as a pioneering first step in the future of spaceflight, opening the path for private companies to take cargo and someday astronauts to the ISS.

The end of the three-decade US space shuttle programme in 2011 left the United States without a means to reach space on its own, and has forced the world's astronauts to rely on Russia for rides to the ISS and back to Earth.

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SpaceX  NASA  Spacecraft  ISS  

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