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SpaceX Dragon cargo ship splashes into Pacific

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The SpaceX Dragon capsule returned to earth on Tuesday with a full science load from the International Space Station — and a bunch of well-used children’s Legos.

The privately owned cargo ship splashed down in the Pacific right on target, 250 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, five hours after leaving the orbiting lab. The California-based SpaceX confirmed the Dragon’s safe arrival via Twitter.

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‘‘Special delivery! Dragon now being recovered in the Pacific,’’ the company said in a tweet.

The capsule brought back more than 1 ton of science experiments and old station equipment, as well as 13 toy sets of Lego building blocks that were used by space station crews over the past couple of years to teach children about science.

The Dragon is the only supply ship capable of two-way delivery. With the space shuttles retired, NASA is paying SpaceX more than $1 billion for a dozen resupply missions.

The capsule will be shipped to Los Angeles — arriving Wednesday night — and then trucked to Texas for unloading.

Earlier in the day, astronauts released the capsule from the end of the space station’s giant robot arm.

The 250-mile-high parting was a poignant moment for the three space station’s residents, who helped to snare the Dragon three weeks
earlier.

‘‘Sad to see the Dragon go,’’ astronaut Thomas Marshburn told Mission Control. ‘‘Performed her job beautifully. Heading back to her lair. Wish her all the best for the splashdown today.’’

The Dragon used old-NASA-style parachutes to plop into the ocean; company officials indicated all appeared to go well during the reentry.

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