Dragon captured hundreds of miles above Earth
SpaceX Dragon capsule is first successful docking between ISS and a private spacecraft.
The International Space Station (ISS) captured a dragon last night hundreds of miles above Earth. While passing over Australia, station astronaut Don Pettit captured the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the station's robotic arm. The capture marks the first docking between the ISS and a privately funded and built spacecraft.
The Dragon capsule captured by the ISS in this NASA photo.
The docking process is a lengthy procedure and will take most of the day on Friday to complete. The crew is expected to open and enter the capsule tomorrow.
The two spacecraft will remain docked for almost a week. Next Thursday, the Dragon capsule will detach from the space station and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast where it will be retrieved by ship.
The SpaceX Dragon mission is a milestone because it represents a significant private foray into space exploration, something that until now has been the domain of world governments. However, in the past decade there has been a substantial movement to hand off routine spaceflight tasks to private industry allowing NASA to focus on exploring deep space and evaluating possible missions to the Moon and Mars.
If the SpaceX Dragon mission proves successful, NASA will likely give permission to start ferrying supplies back and forth to the ISS using the capsule. Eventually, astronauts will fly in the capsule.
The development of the Dragon capsule and its use is important to NASA because since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA has no way of getting astronauts to and from space, unless it rents space on Russian rockets.
SpaceX still has a number of other hurdles to clear before NASA gives the go ahead to fly astronauts, but everything appears to be working properly. Last week, just seconds before launch, the rocket aborted because of a sensor reading. That incident resulted in the replacement of a valve and the rocket flew a few days later.
So far, everything appears to be working out just fine between NASA and SpaceX - good news for the future of both programs.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: SpaceX, Dragon, NASA, ISS, space station, capsule
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