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SpaceX Dragon starts return journey to Earth

The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule has begun its return journey to Earth after being released from the International Space Station (ISS), NASA has confirmed.

The unmanned spacecraft went to the ISS to deliver the first official shipment under a $1.6 billion (£994 million) contract with NASA.

Splashdown for cargo SpaceX Dragon

NASA have announced the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule has successfully landed in the Pacific ocean.

The SpaceX capsule is the first privately owned vehicle to successfully complete a mission to the International Space Station.

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Unmanned space capsule due to head back to Earth

The first privately-owned vehicle to reach the International Space Station is due to start heading back to Earth this morning. The £65 billion pound SpaceX Dragon capsule will descend 250 miles and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.

The capsule is due to begin its journey at 9:05 UK time.

Rays of sunshine and Earth's thin blue atmosphere behind the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft Credit: NASA

Astronauts float on board unmanned SpaceX rocket

Astronauts at the International Space Station have floated on board the unmanned SpaceX Dragon rocket which docked yesterday. It is the first privately owned spaceship to reach the orbital outpost. SpaceX is still working on version of the craft which can carry astronauts.

Speaking to reporters they spoke of the moment the unmanned craft arrived - and said it was business as usual.

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Video: The Space X Dragon is captured by the International Space Station

This footage shows the Space X Dragon Spacecraft being grabbed and captured by a robotic arm on the International Space Station.

It was later successfully berthed at12:02pm EDT (17:02BST).

It is the first time a commercial company has accomplished this type of space operation.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said: "Today marks another critical step in the future of American spaceflight."

He went on: "The Obama Administration has set us on an ambitious path forward and the NASA and SpaceX teams are proving they are up to the task."

Footage courtesy of NASA

NASA: 'Another critical step in future of American spaceflight'

Charles Bolden, Administrator of NASA has given his reaction to Space X's Dragon capsule being successfully berthed at the International Space Station.

White House statement on Dragon's 'historic' docking at ISS

The privately-owned Space X Dragon Spacecraft has successfully attached with the International Space Station.

John P Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, has issued the following statement:

"For the first time, a private American company has successfully launched a spacecraft into orbit and berthed it with the International Space Station—an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance and a key milepost in President Obama’s vision for America’s continued leadership in space.

"That is exactly what the President had in mind when he laid out a fresh course for NASA to explore new scientific frontiers and take Americans ever deeper into our Solar System while relying on private-sector innovators -working in the competitive free market -to ferry astronauts and cargo to Low Earth Orbit and the International Space Station.

I could not be prouder of our scientists and engineers—both government and private sector employees—who have contributed to this historic mission. "

– John P Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
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