NASA launches important equipment to the International Space Station

Astronauts will use the supplies for experiments.
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A spacecraft carrying supplies is headed to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon rocket was successfully launched Sunday morning from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was visible for a few seconds before disappearing into the clouds.

Check out video of the launch below:

About 5,500 pounds of equipment, cargo and supplies were packed into Dragon, a cargo capsule which separated from the rocket and is now in Earth's orbit and headed to the station, NASA said in a press release. It contains a variety of equipment that astronauts will use for experiments during Expeditions 50 and 51.

That includes adult stem cells from the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Abba Zubair, a Mayo Clinic stem cell biologist, says that stem cells grow differently in space. Researchers will study whether microgravity can help stem cells expand faster, with the hope that more can be grown in space and sent back to Earth.

Scientists will also conduct a crystal growth experiment involving an antibody that is undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of immunological diseases. And the spacecraft also carries two instruments used to observe Earth.

You can learn more about the mission and experiments here.

If all goes as planned, Dragon will reach the International Space Station in two days, where astronauts will use a robotic arm to capture it, NASA says. It will depart the station in late March, and return to Earth with nearly 5,000 pounds of science, hardware, and crew supplies.

NASA notes this was the first commercial launch from Kennedy Space Center's historic pad, which was used for the first shuttle launch in 1981. The New York Times says the launch pad was the starting point for most of the manned Apollo missions, including the first moon landing of Apollo 11 in 1969.

It was also the first time in over five years a rocket was launched from the pad, since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011.

Humans have lived and worked aboard the International Space Station for more than 16 years, NASA says, including more than 200 people from 18 countries.

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