A private Dragon spacecraft is headed back to Earth from the International Space Station Sunday (Oct. 28) to wrap up a landmark mission to the orbiting lab: the first commercial cargo flight for NASA.
The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by the U.S. company SpaceX, was set free from the station by at 9:29 a.m. EDT (1329 GMT) as both spacecraft sailed 255 miles (410 kilometers) above Burma. The station's crew used the outpost's robotic arm to release the spacecraft.
"It was nice while she was on board. We tamed her [and] took her home," space station commander Sunita Williams of NASA radioed Mission Control in Houston as the Dragon capsule departed. "Literally and figuratively, there are pieces of us on that spacecraft going home to Earth."
The Dragon capsule is returning hundreds of astronaut blood and urine samplesfrom the space station amid the 1,673 pounds (758 kilograms) of experiments and gear loaded on board. Some of those samples have been waiting for more than a year. NASA's final space shuttle mission landed in July 2011, leaving the agency without a way to return big cargo deliveries to Earth until Dragon's flight. [Photos: Dragon's 1st Space Cargo Delivery]