LOS ANGELES -- SpaceX's robotic Dragon capsule was welcomed back to Earth on Tuesday after its five-hour trip from the International Space Station.
The capsule traveled from the space station, 256 miles above the Pacific Ocean, and splashed into the water near Baja, Calif. at 12:34 under bright red and white parachutes.
SPLASHDOWN! At 9:34am PT, #Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific. Welcome home!
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 26, 2013
Once the capsule is found and recovered from the ocean it will take the SpaceX team about 30 hours to get the capsule back to shore, NASA officials said in a statement.
The Dragon has been at the space station since it left Cape Canaveral in Florida on March 1 and is bringing nearly a ton of experiment samples and scientific gear, including a set of LEGO toys that have been at the station for two years, back to Earth.
NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn and Canada's Chris Hadfield said goodbye to the capsule as they released it from the space station's robotic arm just before 7 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
"It looks both beautiful and nominal from here," Hadfield said.
Marshburn said he was "sad to see the Dragon go. ... Performed her job beautifully, heading back to her lair."
This was the second trip for the privately built space capsule, which is owned by California company SpaceX.
NASA contracted the spaceflight company to make 12 trips to the space station for $1.6 billion.
Founder and CEO Elon Musk said he hopes to be flying crew within three years.
"This was a crucial step and makes the chances of becoming a multi planet species more likely," he said.