American astronaut Anne McClain has become the first astronaut to climb inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on its debut outing over the weekend.
The historic mission marked the first launch to the space station of a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed to carry humans.
On this occasion, the Crew Dragon brought supplies — not people — to the space station, but if the entire mission is a success, we could be just months away from the spacecraft bringing its first humans to space.
Prior to the arrival of the SpaceX crew capsule, McClain tweeted that the ISS crew was enjoying “a quiet night on the space station before the new era of space flight arrives to our front door tomorrow …”
A video (below) posted on the ISS Twitter account shows the astronaut entering the successfully docked capsule to have a look around, at the same time welcoming Ripley (a sensor-laden mannequin that was on board) and Little Earth (a soft toy that functioned as a “super high tech zero-g indicator,” according to SpaceX boss Elon Musk).
.@AstroAnnimal welcomes humans aboard the first @SpaceX #CrewDragon to visit the station and introduces two special guests, Ripley and Little Earth, ushering in the era of @Commercial_Crew. #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/QqzEEgDWzt
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) March 3, 2019
Speaking from inside the capsule, McClain said: “Congratulations to all of the teams who made yesterday’s launch and today’s docking a success. These amazing feats show us not how easy our mission is, but how capable we are of doing hard things.”
The Crew Dragon, also known as the Dragon 2, is the successor to the cargo-carrying Dragon capsule that’s been taking supplies to the space station for the last seven years. The spacecraft is capable of carrying up to seven crew members, and, like the Dragon, reaches space via a Falcon 9 rocket launch.
NASA launch manager Steve Stich described the latest mission as “an important step in returning human spaceflight to American soil.”
He said SpaceX and NASA teams had been working side-by-side on the mission, adding that the flight test “will inform the system design, operations, and drive any changes that need to be made ahead of crew flights.”
Following the successful launch early Saturday, Musk said he was “a little emotionally exhausted,” adding that he was pleased SpaceX was making good progress toward its ambition of launching astronauts into space.
“The whole goal of SpaceX was crewed spaceflight [and] improved space exploration technologies,” Musk said. “I really believe in the future of space, and I think it’s important that we become a space-faring civilization and get out there among the stars.”
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