Saturday, May 26, 2012
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- 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. It has the smell of a brand new car, he added.
"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.
To protect against possible debris, Pettit wore goggles, a mask and a caver's light as he slid open the hatch of the newest addition to the International Space Station. The complex 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.
"This event isn't just a simple door opening between two spacecraft -- it opens the door to a future in which U.S. industry can and will deliver huge benefits for U.S. space exploration," the Space Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, said in a statement.
The California-based SpaceX -- formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp. -- is the first private company to send a vessel to the space station. It's run by Elon Musk, a billionaire who helped create PayPal and founded the electric car company Tesla Motors.
Now that the space shuttles are retired, NASA is handing over orbital delivery work to American business in order to focus on bigger and better objectives, such as getting astronauts to asteroids and Mars. The space agency hopes astronaut ferry trips will follow soon.