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Originally published October 28, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Page modified October 29, 2012 at 10:34 AM

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Dragon ship back home after trip to space station

An unmanned Dragon freighter carrying precious medical samples from the international space station parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on...

The Associated Press

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An unmanned Dragon freighter carrying precious medical samples from the international space station parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

The California-based Space X company successfully guided the Dragon down from orbit to a splashdown a few hundred miles off Mexico's Baja California coast.

The supply ship brought back nearly 2,000 pounds of science experiments and old station equipment. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited cargo is nearly 500 frozen samples of blood and urine collected by station astronauts over the past year.

The Dragon is the only delivery ship capable of returning items, now that NASA's shuttles are retired to museums.

SpaceX — more formally Space Exploration Technologies — launched the capsule three weeks ago from Cape Canaveral, full of groceries, clothes and other station supplies. Ice cream as well as fresh apples were especially appreciated by the station residents, now back up to a full crew of six.

It's the second Dragon to return from the orbiting lab; the first mission in May was a flight demo. This flight is the first of 12 deliveries under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.

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