The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, the world's first privately-owned space supply vehicle, is getting ready to depart from the International Space Station and return to Earth.
Dragon is set to undock from the space station Thursday and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Los Angeles, California about six hours later.
Dragon made a successful Earth orbit and return during a 2010 test flight. But mission chief John Couluris calls the splashdown a very challenging phase of the flight. He said no one is taking the return trip lightly.
Couluris calls Dragon's mission a "major success."
Dragon blasted-off on May 22nd and docked with the space station three days later, becoming the first-ever privately-owned cargo ship to bring food and supplies to the space station.
Since NASA retired the Space Shuttle fleet last year, the United States and Russia must rely on the Russian Soyuz to bring crews and supplies to and from the space station.
SpaceX is owned by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk. He says he plans to be able to fly humans to the space station by 2015.