SCIENCE -- May 25, 2012 at 4:30 PM ET
International Space Station Catches 'Dragon by the Tail'
"Looks like we've got us a dragon by the tail," announced NASA astronaut Don Pettit as the International Space Station's robotic arm reached out and grabbed the SpaceX Dragon capsule Friday morning.
Since the Dragon capsule launched from Cape Canaveral three days ago, NASA, SpaceX, and the public have been waiting for the capsule to reach the International Space Station. A large part of the project's success rested on whether the space station could snare the capsule, pull it into a 65-foot-wide "berthing box" and dock it.
The capsule needed to perform a series of test maneuvers before it was given the OK to approach the space station.
Cheers erupted at the NASA space center in Houston at 9:56 a.m. ET when the space station captured its prize. The unmanned capsule is the first commercial spacecraft to reach the ISS. It docked a few hours later.
The Dragon capsule is delivering 1,000 pounds of food, clothing and technology to the orbiting laboratory. The space station crew then plans to load the empty vessel with about 1,300 pounds of unneeded cargo and hardware before sending it back to Earth on May 31.
John Holdren, President Obama's assistant on science and technology policy, released a statement noting the significance of this transfer:
That is exactly what the president had in mind when he laid out a fresh course for NASA to explore new scientific frontiers and take Americans even deeper into our solar system while relying on private-sector innovators -- working in the competitive free market -- to ferry astronauts and cargo to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. It's essential we maintain such competition and fully support this burgeoning and capable industry to get U.S. astronauts back on American launch vehicles as soon as possible.
I could not be prouder of our scientists and engineers -- both government and private sector employees -- who have contributed to this historic mission. A passion for discovery and a sense for adventure have always driven this nation forward, and I join all Americans in watching what future possibilities are enabled by today's great achievement.
Check out past NewsHour reports on the SpaceX mission: