Monday, March 4, 2013

Dragon reaches the ISS

Despite having some problems initially with the thrusters SpaceX's Dragon capsule has docked with the International Space Station for the second time bringing supplies and science experiments. Although there are other ways to send cargo up to the ISS the Dragon is the only one that can return materials to Earth as other cargo spaceships like the venerable Progress are discarded and burn up on re-entry (although an older version of Progress could use a returnable cargo container called Raduga though this hasn't been used with the ISS).

Among the items the Dragon capsule will return to Earth later in the month are some fishes. Some Japanese Medaka fish that have been on the ISS for 6 months will be returned to Earth to study the effect of zero gravity on bone density. Blood and urine samples from the astronauts will also be returned to study the effect on human anatomy of spaceflight.

Dragon could be the basis of a new generation of manned spaceships, as mentioned already it could be used for Dennis Tito's planned trip around Mars.
An earlier Dragon mission lifts off, image from NASA/Alan Ault

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