NASA and SpaceX have postponed the return of a Dragon cargo ship at the International Space Station due to rough seas at the capsule's Pacific Ocean splashdown zone.
SpaceX's Dragon was scheduled to leave the space station today (May 2) and splash down in the Pacific just off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. But yesterday, NASA announced a change: Dragon will now return Saturday (May 5).
Gary Jordan, a spokesperson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said rough, high seas at the splashdown zone prompted Dragon's delay. NASA and SpaceX mission managers wanted to avoid any unnecessary risk to Dragon's precious payload of science experiments and gear, he added.
"It's really the weather," Jordan told Space.com of the delay. "They were looking at sea states and waves."
Dragon is now scheduled to depart the International Space Station Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT). It will splash down in the Pacific at about 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), Jordan said.
You can watch Dragon's space station departure live here, courtesy of NASA TV, beginning at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) on Saturday. NASA and SpaceX are not expected to webcast the splashdown, but SpaceX does typically post updates on Twitter here.
SpaceX's Dragon will return more than 4,000 lbs. (1,800 kilograms) of cargo, science experiment samples and technology demonstration gear when it returns to Earth Saturday, according to NASA. The spacecraft launched April 2 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It arrived at the station on April 4, delivering 5,800 lbs. (2,630 kg) of supplies. This is SpaceX's 14th delivery mission for NASA and the second spaceflight for this Dragon capsule, which made a previous resupply run to the station in April 2016.
Among the science gear returning to Earth are mice that have been living in habitats on the space station. Samples of plants, insects and human tissue will also return inside special freezers. Dragon is also expected to return NASA's Robonaut 2 robot, which was designed to help astronauts with their daily chores in space. Robonaut 2 suffered a malfunction in 2014 and is being returned for analysis and repair.
Dragon's return will cap a busy Saturday for NASA.
NASA's next mission to Mars, the InSight Mars lander, will launch toward the Red Planet early Saturday morning, just hours before Dragon's Earth return. InSight will launch on an Atlas V rocket at 7:05 a.m. EDT (1105 GMT) from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
If you live in Southern California, you may be able to see the InSight launch as it streaks across the predawn sky. (The launch will occur at 4:05 a.m. PDT.)
Visit Space.com Saturday for complete coverage of SpaceX's Dragon return and NASA's InSight Mars lander launch.