SpaceX Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, are spending the United States Fourth of July Independence Day celebration preparing the Dragon capsule to return cargo to Earth next week. The astronauts are loading Dragon with approximately 5,000 pounds of cargo, including the results of science research conducted by astronauts at the orbiting laboratory.
The Dragon spacecraft will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, July 6, at 10:45 a.m. EDT, initiating its voyage back to Earth. The spacecraft is scheduled to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean by midnight on Thursday, completing the SpaceX’s 22nd mission under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-22) contract. The CRS-22 Dragon vehicle arrived to the Space Station on June 5, taking over 7,300 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies, dozens of science supplies to conduct research, and hardware to upgrade the ISS power system. A couple of weeks ago, Kimbrough and Pesquet conducted a series of spacewalks to install the iROSA solar arrays that Dragon transported in its trunk.
NASA TV will broadcast Dragon CRS-22 departure on Tuesday morning at 10:45 a.m. Eastern Time (video is linked below). The agency said it will not provide Live coverage of the capsule’s splashdown. Dragon operates autonomously as Mission Control staff at “SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, command Dragon to undock from the space-facing port on the station’s Harmony module at 11 a.m., with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough monitoring aboard the station. The cargo craft will physically separate from the station five minutes later before firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away prior to a deorbit burn that will begin its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere,” the agency shared in a press release, “Dragon is expected to make its parachute-assisted splashdown around 12 a.m. Thursday, July 8.”
Some of the cargo Dragon will return to Earth include the results of scientific experiments conducted at the ISS Lab by Expedition 65 crewmembers. One of the experiments that will be transported is ‘Lyophilization-2’, which “examines how gravity affects freeze-dried materials and could result in improved freeze-drying processes for pharmaceutical and other industries. Freeze-drying also has potential use for long-term storage of medications and other resources on future exploration missions,” NASA said.
Another research to return is the ‘Molecular Muscle Experiment-2’ which tested “a series of drugs to see whether they can improve health in space, possibly leading to new therapeutic targets for examination on Earth.” The “Oral Biofilms in Space” experiment is also aboard Dragon, it studied “how gravity affects the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents. Findings could support development of novel treatments to fight oral diseases such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis,” the agency explains. All of these experiments conducted in microgravity are delicate and time sensitive; therefore, to minimize the effects of Earth’s gravity affecting the experiments’ sample results, NASA and SpaceX will command Dragon to splashdown close to the coast of Florida where teams will quickly transport all the important cargo to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center.
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Featured Image Source: NASA