A storm-delayed SpaceX spacecraft bid farewell to the International Space Station on Thursday for the journey back to Earth. From the station’s Harmony module, the CRS-22 Dragon cargo ship undocked at 10:40 a.m. EDT, departing to return to Earth, and it will arrive in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tallahassee, Florida.
Dragon to return Earth will take 37 hours, with splashdown set for Friday, July 9, at 11:30 p.m. EDT, NASA officials said in a live webcast. There is 48 hours delay in departure due to Tropical Storm Elsa surging along the eastern coast of the US. Splashdown will not be broadcast live.
Usually, the Dragon ship returns within a day or two on Earth of undocking or unberthing because some experiments are typically refrigerated. According to the press release, to minimize the effects of gravity on the samples, the experiments will be sent back to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
But NASA said it would not rush the splashdown process. “Certain parameters like wind speeds and wave heights must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the science, and the spacecraft,” NASA said in a Wednesday press release.
The ship, carrying 5,000 lbs. of experiments, equipment, and other things, was supposed to depart the station on July 6 and then July 7 but continued dangerous conditions and high winds from Elsa forced delays. On June 3, the cargo ship departed the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for docking on June 5. It carried a new Boeing-built ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays that will be deployed this month by the spacewalking astronauts to boost power levels on the ISS.
Some of the key experiments after the return of Dragon includes –
Molecular Muscle Experiment 2 – series of drugs are tested to see if they can improve health in space.
Lyophilization 2 – tests how freeze-dried material is affected by gravity and improves the freeze-drying processes for various industries.
Oral Biofilms in Space – which “studies how gravity affects the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents.”