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SpaceX Dragon Prepares to Leave the International Space Station

Mar 22, 2013 11:16 AM EDT
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Having delivered more than 1,200 pounds of supplies to the three Expedition 35 crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is getting ready to make its return trip to Earth scheduled for March 25.

However, when it splashes down into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Baja California, it will be carrying more than it left with. In all, the craft will be shuttling nearly 2,700 pounds of experiment results from the ISS down to Earth, according to NASA.

One of these experiments, led by Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn, examines the surface tension created by different temperatures occurring at a liquid/gas interface. Another, also overseen by Marshburn, looks at plants' ability to grow in microgravity.

Commander Chris Hadfield, too, is currently monitoring the effect of temperature and time on the growth of dendrites in lead-tin solid-liquid metals.

A NASA report explains that scientists hope that by better understanding the effect of these variables, they will be able to develop a "more efficient and economical means of producing higher quality products derived from the casting of molten metals."

Meanwhile, on Earth a new set of crew members are completing last-minute preparations before their launch on March 28. The new group includes Chris Cassidy from York, Maine, and Alexander Misurken and Pavel Vinogradov from Russia.

The ISS is the size of a football field and includes two bathrooms and a gym. In 2010 the spacecraft celebrated its ten-year anniversary of continuous human occupation and has logged more than 1.5 billion statute miles, the equivalent of eight trips around the Sun.

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