Published: Thu, March 07, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

An Important Step for Commercial Crew — This Week @ NASA

An Important Step for Commercial Crew — This Week @ NASA

The launch and subsequent docking with the ISS mark the first steps to the return of the U.S.to the frontlines of space exploration for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles.

The white Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station almost 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position.

Crew Dragon docked with the ISS on March 3 at 6:02 a.m. EST, becoming the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory.

Monday, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 Commander Oleg Kononenko went over emergency procedures specific to Crew Dragon's stay in orbit. The capsule is the first American spacecraft which can carry a crew that has been designed in nearly a decade.

The capsule successfully separated from the rocket about 11 minutes later, sparking cheers in the control room, and began its journey to the space station. The spacecraft is expected to undock on March 8 and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean after its descent by the parachute.

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SpaceX's 27-foot-long capsule rocketed into orbit early Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with a mannequin strapped into one of its four seats in a dashing, white-and-black, form-fitting SpaceX spacesuit.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station.

"It was super exciting to see it", astronaut Bob Behnken, told the BBC. The scientists took readings from the inside of the Crew Dragon, and have been outfitted with respiration aids to make sure they wouldn't be in any hazard if the environment contained in the capsule wasn't good. "I know you heard the applause and all the clapping that went along with the accomplishment today and so it's just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here".

Early on Friday, Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric carmaker Tesla Inc, tweeted a photo of the inside of Crew Dragon capsule with Ripley strapped inside.

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