SpaceX's 23rd Dragon Departs The Space Station To Return Important Cargo To Earth

by Evelyn Arevalo September 30, 2021

SpaceX's 23rd Dragon Departs The Space Station To Return Important Cargo To Earth

On Thursday, September 30, SpaceX’s Dragon departed the International Space Station (ISS) to return important cargo to Earth as part of the completion of SpaceX’s 23rd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-23) mission for NASA. The Dragon spacecraft arrived on August 30, delivering over 4,500 pounds of cargo to the orbiting laboratory. It remained docked to the ISS Harmony module for a month. The Expedition 65 astronauts packed Dragon with supplies that are no longer needed at ISS, also the results of science research they conducted in microgravity.

Before Dragon departed from the Space Station, SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts signed the capsule's interior. –“We have a tradition in space (yes another one) to add a sticker and sign the hatch for all visiting spacecraft,” European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Pesquet shared, “Here we are signing our SpaceX Crew Dragon – the second time, after relocation!” he captioned a set of photographs.


Dragon undocked at 9:12 a.m. EDT (1312 GMT) on Thursday while the station was travelling over the Pacific Ocean. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough monitored Dragon’s autonomous docking operation that was commanded by Mission Control at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. “I want to give a huge thank you to the SpaceX and the NASA teams for getting this vehicle up to us in great shape, with a lot of science and surprise for the ISS,” Kimbrough said during NASA’s Live undocking operation broadcast. “The activities associated with SpaceX-23 kept our crew busy over the past month. We look forward to hearing about the results of the payloads we interacted with. Have a safe journey back to Earth,” he said.


Dragon moved away from ISS to prepare for a deorbit burn sequence that will take the capsule through Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft will conduct a parachute-assisted splashdown in the ocean along Florida’s coast at approximately 11:00 p.m. EDT, bringing back 4,600 pounds of cargo. “NASA and SpaceX personnel will be on support boats ready to retrieve the cargo craft containing station hardware and completed science experiments for analysis,” the agency said in a press release.

Upon recovery, teams will transport Dragon to NASA's Space Station Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, which is located near the splashdown site. It is vital for Dragon to land near NASA facilities because recovery teams need to extract important science cargo as soon as possible, to minimize the potential for the effects of gravity to affect the science research results. Expedition 65 astronauts conducted all the research at the ISS Lab, research conducted in microgravity enables scientists to learn how Earth and space environment affect different conditions and potentially develop new technologies and medical treatments to improve people’s lives. Some of the important cargo Dragon will bring back includes:

The 'Ring Sheared Drop' experiment which "examines the formation and flow of abnormal proteins, called amyloids, in the absence of solid walls, which can influence chemical interactions." The results of this research will help scientists better understand neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

The 'Anti-Atrophy' research is another experiment Expedition 65 astronauts conducted in microgravity that will return aboard CRS-23 Dragon. Astronauts tested "the ability of biomaterials to inhibit muscle atrophy in microgravity." Through this experiment, researchers hope to produce pharmaceuticals to prevent muscle atrophy on Earth and in space environments. 

The results of 'Genes in Space-8' research will also be shipped back to Earth. Through this research, astronauts tested a technology that monitors gene expression in space, specifically in a liver. Scientists hope to figure out if spaceflight affects vital organs. Analyzing the gene expression in space conditions may help medical engineers develop new therapies and technology for humans adapt to spaceflight. 

Featured Image Source: NASA 

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