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Splashdown! Space Mice Hitch a Ride Back to Earth on SpaceX Dragon

Splashdown!

SpaceX's Dragon made its grand return to Earth this morning. After being released by a robotic arm at the International Space Station this morning, Dragon began the five-and-a-half hour journey home.

The free-flying spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station on July 20 for a cargo run. Astronauts filled the vessel with 3,000 pounds of science experiments before its return to Earth.

Perhaps its most noteworthy passengers are a dozen mice, which are being used as part of a genetic study. Another mouse trial focused on rapid loss of bone and muscle mass and testing an antibody known to work in helping to prevent muscle wasting in mice on Earth, NASA said.

Dragon's arrival went smoothly, with the capsule deploying its parachutes to help decelerate as it splashed down into the Pacific Ocean, just southwest of Baja California. A recovery crew will then bring Dragon back to land.

SpaceX's Dragon is especially vital to NASA's scientific research because it is the only capsule able to safely return cargo to Earth. Other capsules are loaded with trash and burn up when re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

Read More: SpaceX Lands Fifth Rocket During Space Station Cargo Launch