SpaceX Dragon splashes down off Florida coast with nearly 5,000 pounds of science on board

A SpaceX Dragon CRS-23 cargo ship is retrieved from the ocean off the Florida coast on Sept. 30, 2021. A similar Dragon CRS-24 cargo ship splashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Florida on Jan. 24, 2022 to end its mission.
A SpaceX Dragon CRS-23 cargo ship is retrieved from the ocean off the Florida coast on Sept. 30, 2021. A similar Dragon CRS-24 cargo ship splashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Florida on Jan. 24, 2022 to end its mission. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's latest cargo mission is back on Earth with a huge haul of science experiments on board.

The Dragon CRS-24 cargo ship splashed down today (Jan. 24) in the Gulf of Mexico at 4:05 p.m. EST (2105 GMT), off the coast of Florida near Panama City.

"Splashdown of Dragon confirmed, completing SpaceX's 24th resupply mission to the space station," SpaceX wrote in a Twitter update.

The SpaceX cargo ship returned nearly 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of science to Earth, including a "cytoskeleton" that studies cell signaling in humans, and returning a 12-year-old light imaging microscope being retired after more than a decade of use in orbit. Those experiments and more will be returned to NASA's Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida to be delivered to scientists, SpaceX said in a statement.

Related: Live updates from the International Space Station 

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The spacecraft wrapped up its mission after just over a month in space, allowing Expedition 66 spaceflyers to receive fresh food and supplies from Earth on Dec. 22, a day after launch, before the crew filled up the spacecraft with science to return home.

The splashdown was initially targeted for the wee hours of Monday morning local time, but two days of bad weather at potential splashdown locations in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast prevented the departure at first, according to SpaceX. 

The undocking finally took place on Sunday (Jan. 23) at 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT), and was livestreamed by NASA TV. 

The SpaceX Dragon CRS-24 cargo ship is seen as it backed away from the International Space Station after undocking from the orbiting laboratory on Jan. 23, 2022 to begin the trip back to Earth. (Image credit: NASA TV)

"Expedition 66 wishes the Dragon well on its return," NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn radioed Mission Control from the station, on behalf of Expedition 66, shortly after the undocking. "Congratulations to Houston and SpaceX. Can't wait to see what the results bring."

NASA carried no coverage of the splashdown, but the agency and SpaceX did provide updates through social media. The target location was close enough to NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Florida's Space Coast (an hour east of Orlando) to rapidly return science experiments that need to be kept refrigerated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the splashdown location of SpaceX's Dragon CRS-24 capsule. It was off the Florida coast near Panama City in the Gulf of Mexico, not the Atlantic Ocean.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: