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Private Spacecraft Returns to Earth

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Associated Press) -- The SpaceX Dragon supply ship returned to Earth on Thursday, ending its revolutionary nine-day voyage to the International Space Station with an old-fashioned splashdown in the Pacific.

The unmanned capsule parachuted into the ocean about 500 miles off Mexico's Baja California, bringing back more than a half-ton of old station equipment. It was the first time since the space shuttles stopped flying last summer that NASA got back a big load from the orbiting lab.

Thursday's dramatic arrival of the world's first commercial cargo carrier capped a test mission that was virtually flawless, beginning with the May 22 launch aboard the SpaceX company's Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral and continuing through the space station docking three days later and the departure a scant six hours before it hit the water.

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