For those of you wondering what comes next in the grand scheme of space travel, the next chapter has officially started. On October 28th, just as the entire Eastern Seaboard was marveling at images the NASA GOES satellite (among others) has sent back of Hurricane Sandy, the SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully splashed down in the Pacific ocean near southern California. The capsule had completed a three week trip to the International Space Station as a cargo container that brought supplies to the station and brought samples and experiments home.
Loaded with over eight hundred eighty pounds of food, equipment, and supplies, the capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the top of one of the Falcon 9 rockets made also by SpaceX. Even more poundage worth of blood and urine samples, as well as scientific experiments and gear was returned in it. That makes this capsule the first ever unmanned (robotic) spacecraft that is able to return cargo to Earth instead of just bringing it to the station.
One NASA spokesman is calling it a historical mission, even if it has been overshadowed by the historical ‘perfect storm’ brewing on the other coast. And with the first successful cargo mission out of the way, the company can work closer with the space agency to maintain the space station as all work towards the goal of commercially sustainable spaceflight in the wake of the end of the Space Shuttle program.
The next mission of this kind is scheduled for January, but in the meantime, you can read more here.