The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship will today leave the International Space Station. The Dragon CRS-20 cargo ship will depart the space station at 1.15pm GMT (9.15am EDT). At this time the SpaceX craft will be released from the orbiting space laboratory’s robotic arm before it begins its return journey to Earth.
How to watch Dragon Cargo ship leave International Space Station:
You can enjoy all the action for free, courtesy of NASA TV.
NASA’s webcast of Dragon’s departure will begin at 12.45pm GMT (8.45am EDT).
As its name implies, the Dragon CRS-20 cargo ship is the 20th resupply mission launched by the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX for NASA.
The mission is only the latest for SpaceX in a multi-billion-dollar agreement for the US space agency.
The spacecraft has already successfully completed two ISS resupply missions.
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CRS-20 cargo ship launched into orbit again on March 6 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket also including a booster making its second flight.
The unmanned craft docked with the International Space Station three days later.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship on the CRS-20 flight is the last of its kind.
CRS-20 is the final cargo version of Dragon that will have to be captured at the station using a robotic arm, then installed at an open docking port.
Future Dragon missions will instead dock themselves at the station much like SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Crew Dragon is scheduled to begin launching astronauts to the ISS in mid-May.
What is CRS-20 Crew Dragon’s mission?
The SpaceX Dragon will return the results of numerous scientific experiments conducted on the ISS to Earth.
Planning ways to supply food for a multi-year mission on the Moon or Mars will require manufacturing food and nutrients in space.
BioNutrients is technology experts hope will allow on-demand production of nutrients needed during long-duration space missions.
Although designed for space, this system also could help provide nutrition for people in remote areas of Earth.
Biological printing of the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillaries, is difficult in Earth due to its strong gravity.
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The BioFabrication Facility is an attempt to print off human organs and tissues in microgravity.
The facility could also help maintain the health of crews on deep space exploration missions by producing food and bespoke drugs on demand.
The Engineered Heart Tissues study has explored how human heart tissue functions in space.
The study incorporated unique 3D tissues made from heart cells derived from human stem cells.
Researchers anticipate significant differences in function, structure and gene expression between those made in microgravity and those designed on terra firma.
Understanding these differences could help them find ways to prevent or mitigate problematic changes on future long-duration space missions.
Samples from the Space Biofilms investigation, which examines microbial species and their formation of biofilms, are also returning on Dragon CRS-20.
Biofilms are collections of one or more types of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and protists.
Improved control of biofilms may help maintain crewed spacecraft and protect the health and safety of crew members.
This could additionally prevent the introduction of Earth-based microbes to planetary bodies on which humans land.
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