SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at approximately 10:14 a.m. EDT, southwest of Long Beach, California, and the recovery process is underway, marking the end of the company’s twelfth contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.
Expedition 53 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and International Space Station Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA released the Dragon spacecraft earlier this morning at 4:40 a.m.
A variety of technological and biological studies are returning in Dragon. NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours.
The Lung Tissue experiment used the microgravity environment of space to test strategies for growing new lung tissue. The ultimate goal of this investigation is to produce bioengineered human lung tissue that can be used as a predictive model of human responses allowing for the study of lung development, lung physiology or disease pathology.
Samples from the CASIS PCG 7 study used the orbiting laboratory’s microgravity environment to grow larger versions of an important protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease. Developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Anatrace and Com-Pac International, researchers will look to take advantage of the station’s microgravity environment which allows protein crystals to grow larger and in more perfect shapes than earth-grown crystals, allowing them to be better analyzed on Earth. Defining the exact shape and morphology of LRRK2 would help scientists to better understand the pathology of Parkinson’s and aid in the development of therapies against this target.
Mice from NASA’s Rodent Research-9 study also will return live to Earth for additional study. The investigation combined three studies into one mission, with two looking at how microgravity affects blood vessels in the brain and in the eyes and the third looking at cartilage loss in hip and knee joints. For humans on Earth, research related to limited mobility and degrading joints can help scientists understand how arthritis develops, and a better understanding of the visual impairments experienced by astronauts can help identify causes and treatments for eye disorders.
Dragon launched to the space station Aug. 14 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and arrived at the station Aug. 16, delivering more than 6,400 pounds of supplies and cargo.
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