About 563 miles west of Baja California, SpaceX's Dragon space capsule successfully splashed down after spending nine days in outer space.
When the unmanned cone-shaped capsule hit the water at 8:42 a.m. Pacific time Thursday, it marked the end of a historic mission carried out by the Hawthorne company officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. It was the first privately built and operated spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.
"Welcome home, baby," said Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and chief executive, in a news briefing from company headquarters.
After the two spacecraft connected in space May 25, astronauts aboard the space station unloaded half a ton of cargo, water and clothes. The Dragon spent six days attached to the station and was refilled with 1,455 pounds of cargo for the trip back to Earth. The cargo will be delivered to NASA.
Astronauts sent the capsule back in the pre-dawn hours Thursday for a trip that lasted about five hours.
After the capsule reentered Earth's atmosphere, the three main parachutes billowed open about five minutes before splashdown. The orange-and-white-striped parachutes, each 116 feet in diameter, slowed the spacecraft's descent to 16 to 18 feet per second.