Enter the Dragon

An important milestone in the commercialization of space has arrived. The Dragon Capsule, made by SpaceX, has successfully docked with the international space station.

Earlier, the Dragon successfully flew into orbit, cruised around for a bit, and then landed back on Earth. It was a triumph: now that the spacecraft had proved it could reach and function in space, it had passed its first test.

The next test is to see how well the capsule can perform on cargo missions. For that, it must be able to modify its course and successfully dock with the space station. Moreover, it would have to be able to do this all by itself. No human input would be possible. The potential for things to go wrong is huge: a faulty calculation could send the capsule careening off into deep space. Worse, it might crash into the space station itself, causing incalculable damage.

Luckily the capsule did none of these dreadful things. Instead, it docked with the space station exactly as it was supposed to. About 800 pounds of supplies will be offloaded. Later, the space station crew will load in some supplies of their own, and send the capsule down for its date with the Pacific Ocean.

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