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Dragon makes history with space station docking

SeattlePI.com
Friday, 25 May 2012

Dragon makes history with space station docking
Associated Press
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Updated 02:04 p.m., Friday, May 25, 2012

(AP) — The private company SpaceX made history Friday with the docking of its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the most impressive feat yet in turning routine spaceflight over to the commercial sector. SpaceX still has to get its Dragon back next week with a load of science gear; the retro bell-shaped capsule is designed to splash down into the ocean, in the style of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. After a three-day flight from Cape Canaveral, the Dragon closed in on the space station as two control centers — NASA in Houston and SpaceX in Hawthorne, Calif. — worked in tandem. NASA astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station's 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon as the two craft soared 250 miles above Australia, a day after a practice fly-by. The company's youthful-looking employees — the average age is 30 — were still in a frenzy when Musk took part in a televised news conference a couple hours later. Not only that, the reusable SpaceX Dragon is designed to safely return items, a huge benefit that disappeared with NASA's space shuttles. "Everyone who is working to push forward the space frontier recognizes that such a mission is a massive challenge, and I join the world in lauding this important accomplishment," said Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company that is holding a seat for Musk aboard its SpaceShipTwo. Musk, who founded SpaceX a decade ago and helped create PayPal, said he can have astronauts riding his Dragon capsules to orbit in three or four years.
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