For the first time since Atlantis in July 2011, an American spacecraft has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). Privately built by SPACEX, the Dragon spacecraft completed a three day unmanned mission to the ISS delivering over a ton of supplies. This is a monumental step in the history of space exploration. The International Space Station Expedition 31 crew successfully captured the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the station’s robotic arm at 9:56 AM EDT.
Just like the Wrights at Kitty Hawk and Lindbergh in Paris, Americans just got to work and did it with little or no fanfare. Today is the day that space is no longer the domain of governments but has opened up to private enterprise. I watched the docking on NASA TV. It reminded me of watching Armstrong on the Moon or the Shuttle’s first test flight. Was this how it felt standing on the dunes of Kitty Hawk watching a couple of crazy bicycle repairmen change the direction of Mankind? I think so.
I grew up in the hey day of Gemini and Apollo. As a ten year old I confidently looked forward to a career in space. I’m now 54 and back then I thought I’d be vacationing on the Moon by now. I was disappointed when the Apollo flights were cancelled. I was sad when the last Shuttle landed. How could we just give up? Today’s achievement rekindles in me that hope for the future. That the 2020’s will be for Space what the 1920’s did for aviation.
During today’s press conference, Space X CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk was asked how much cargo Dragon can carry. He said, “I’ve been racking my brain trying to figures out how much we can fit in the trunk”. It cracked me up to hear him refer to the cargo area as “the Trunk”. But then I found out that that’s its official name. Today’s mission delivered supplies and experiments to the ISS. The experiments to be conducted on the ISS were designed by school children from Fifth grade to Community College. Someone’s getting an A at the Science Fair. Included in the cargo was a stinky wheel of cheese encased in its own air tight Lucite container. The wheel of cheese was launched in honor of a classic skit from actor John Cleese of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CHEESE!
Elon Musk said that he named his spacecraft “Dragon” after the fictional “Puff the Magic Dragon,” from the hit song by music group Peter, Paul and Mary. Musk said he used the name because many critics considered his goals impossible when he founded SpaceX in 2002. SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon rockets — the Falcon 9 boosters and smaller Falcon 1 rockets — are named after the fictional Millennium Falcon spaceship from creator George Lucas’ “Star Wars” movies.
NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers were on duty at the robotic work station in the space station’s cupola, while NASA astronaut Joe Acaba stood by to bolt the Dragon onto Harmony. Pettit flew the Dragon via commands he issued from a laptop in the Destiny laboratory. The SpaceX Dragon capsule was securely bolted to the Harmony module at 12:02 p.m. EDT.
“Looks like we’ve got a Dragon by the tail,” – Pettit