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SpaceX 'Dragon' wings back to Earth, splashes down in the Pacific

SpaceX "Dragon" smoothly undocked, moved out, released and on its way home on May 31, 2012.
Photo credit: ESA/NASA

Six hours after departing the International Space Station, the now legendary SpaceX "Dragon" parachuted back to its home planet and splashed into the Pacific Ocean. 

The unmanned cargo ship, returing from space with nearly 1,400 pounds of old gear, was launched last week by Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies, or "SpaceX," making history as the first private rocket company to fly cargo to the International Space Station.  

NASA, having made its last space shuttle flight earlier this year, is now relying on private companies like Space X to make those space runs. The world's first commercial supply ship was let loose by astronauts on Thursday after a five-day visit to the final frontier. 

Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers described the experience via Twitter, writing that "Dragon smoothly undocked, moved out, released and on its way home."

The six-man space station crew got a, "Great work, guys," from NASA's Mission Control, however, within minutes, the capsule was outside of the NASA-controlled safety zone and under the complete jurisdiction of SpaceX's California team

SpaceX guided the craft's descent through the atmosphere to a targeted splashdown off the coast of Mexico, 560 miles west of Baja California. A fleet of boats waited in position to welcome the creature home.

The capsule will be transported by barge to Los Angeles where it will be trucked to the SpaceX rocket factory in Texas for inspection and unloading.

The 24th richest guy in town, SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, tweeted that he received a congratulatory call from President Barack Obama following the launch. Let's see who calls him today.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner