End Of An Era
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (CBSMiami/AP) – The first commercial space vehicle to dock with the International Space Station, launched from Florida earlier this week, finally delivered the groceries Saturday morning when it was opened by space station crew members and its cargo was transferred aboard.
Space station astronauts floated into the Dragon on Saturday, a day after its heralded arrival as the world’s first commercial supply ship.
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, the first one inside the docked capsule, said the Dragon looks like it carries about as much cargo as his pickup truck back home in Houston. He also commented on its “new car smell.”
“I spent quite a bit of time poking around in here this morning, just looking at the engineering and the layout, and I’m very pleased,” Pettit said from the brilliant white compartment.
The station sailed 250 miles above the Tasman Sea, just west of New Zealand, as he and his crewmates made their grand entrance. The atmosphere was clean; no dirt or other particles were floating around.
The California-based SpaceX — formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — is the first private company to send a vessel to the space station. SpaceX contends its Dragons could be carrying space station astronauts up and down within three or four years.
Flight controllers were ecstatic to be at the cusp of this new commercial era.
“It’s great to see you guys inside Dragon. It looks great,” Mission Control radioed.
The Dragon contains 1,000 pounds of food, clothes, batteries and other provisions. It will bring back 1,400 pounds’ worth of gear.
Until now, only major governments have launched cargo ships to the space station. Russia, Japan and Europe will keep providing supplies, and Russia will continue to sell rocket rides to U.S. astronauts until SpaceX or other companies are ready to take over. Several American enterprises are competing for the honor.
Pettit noted that the Dragon — 19 feet tall and 12 feet wide — is roomier than the Russian Soyuz spacecraft he rode up in.
“Flying up in a human-rated Dragon is not going to be an issue,” he assured reporters during a news conference.