Dragon Cargo Capsule Splashes Down With Plants, Space LEGOs

The Hawthorne-based company's cargo craft returned to Earth Tuesday with science samples and toy LEGO blocks from the International Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule splashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula Tuesday after a five-hour return journey from the orbiting International Space Station, marking the end of another round-trip supply run for the Southern California-based company.

"Special delivery! Dragon now being recovered in the Pacific,'' SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, said in a tweet.

The unmanned capsule will be retrieved from the water and shipped back to Los Angeles. It is expected to arrive in Southern California Wednesday night before being transported to Texas.

The ocean splashdown comes after an early March launch from Florida that sent the capsule and its space station supplies on a third space station mission for SpaceX. Dragon returned with science samples collected by the space station's three astronauts, old space station equipment and other items -- including LEGO blocks -- that will be removed in McGregor, Texas.

Flowering plant samples returned with the capsule might help researchers improve crop production and develop food for future space missions, according to NASA.

The LEGO blocks? They went to the space station two years ago as part of an educational partnership involving the toy company and NASA. Astronauts used the blocks to show how machines work in weightless environments.

The models included replicas of the space station and now-retired space shuttles. A 3-foot long space station model would have collapsed under its own weight in Earth's gravity.

The supply run is SpaceX's third to the space station since May 2012. SpaceX is run by billionaire Elon Musk, co-creator of PayPal and owner of electric car maker Tesla Motors.

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