Science

Sky watchers watch SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship streak through the night sky as it returns to Earth

Late on Thursday night (September 30) in the southeastern United States, anyone looking up could have caught a glimpse of a bright streak, heading out into the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Florida. It was actually a SpaceX Dragon cargo refueling spacecraft returning to Earth after a trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Dragon, which flew to the ISS as part of SpaceX’s 23rd Cargo Refueling Mission for NASA (CRS-23), had been in space since August. He went to the ISS with several tons of supplies, equipment and science experiments for the Expedition 65 crew. Those experiments included a project by students from Hasselt University in Belgium and the island nation of Malta’s first contribution to the ISS: sounding out the germs within the skin of foot ulcers.

Related: SpaceX Dragon Launches Great Science Tour of Space Station for Astronaut Health, Plant Stress, and More

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After more than a month in space, CRS-23 returned to Earth on Thursday. The capsule was unleashed from the ISS at 9:12 a.m. EDT (1312 GMT), while flying over the Pacific Ocean. At 10:07 pm EDT (0207 GMT Friday), the capsule fired its engines to exit Earth’s orbit and begin its descent into the atmosphere.

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For the next few minutes, the Dragon crossed east over North America, leaving a bright trail in its wake that was visible from all over the southeastern United States. As it crossed Florida and Georgia, Earthlings could even hear its loud sonic boom. At 10:57 p.m. EDT (0257 GMT), less than an hour after its first fire, it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Now, SpaceX and NASA will dedicate themselves to recovering the Dragon capsule and the memories it brought back from the ISS: several tons of equipment and the results of a few more science experiments. The reusable pod will then be cleaned and ready for your next launch; already, this is the second time this particular capsule has flown into space and vice versa.

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft soars aboard a recovery vessel after splashing in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida on Thursday, Sept.30, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)

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