SpaceX Dragon Comes Home After Space Mouse Delivery

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted this picture from the International Space Station on Saturday. "A space-weathered SpaceX Dragon looking great moments before release today," he wrote. Reid Wiseman / NASA via Twitter

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship ended a monthlong stay at the International Space Station on Saturday and made a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Barry Wilmore used the station’s robotic crane to release the capsule, built and operated by California-based SpaceX, as the two vehicles soared 260 miles (418 kilometers) over Australia.

"Dragon is free," mission commentator Rob Navias said during a NASA broadcast.

Several hours later, the gumdrop-shaped Dragon made a parachute descent into the Pacific Ocean, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) west of Mexico's Baja California. "Splashdown is confirmed!" SpaceX tweeted.

The capsule carried about 3,800 pounds (1,724 kilograms) of science experiments and equipment no longer needed aboard the station. It blasted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 21 with more than 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) of food, supplies, experiments and equipment — including a prototype 3-D printer and 20 live mice that are being used in medical experiments to assess bone and muscle loss during long-duration spaceflights.

Dragon also delivered a $26 million NASA science instrument called RapidScat that was attached to the outside of the station to measure wind speeds over the oceans.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. resupply the space station under the terms of commercial contracts totaling $3.5 billion. Orbital is due to launch a Cygnus freighter toward the station on Monday.

— Reuters and NBC News