(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) – The SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) Friday making history as the first commercial spacecraft to make contact with the station.
The capsule docked with a robotic arm that extends from the space station at 9:56 a.m. eastern time four days after its transport rocket, SpaceX Falcon 9, took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in order to deliver a half-ton of food and other supplies to the ISS.
The capsule also carried the ashes of 308 people, including James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original Star Trek series, and American astronaut Gordon Cooper. The ashes are in a canister that will be jettisoned into space.
Astronauts Donald Pettit and Andre Kuipers used the station’s robotic arm to grab the capsule. Pettit spoke to mission control, “it looks like we got us a dragon by the tail.”
According to NASA, the station was 251 miles over northwest Australia when capture occurred. This was NASA's first attempt to outsource its missions to privately-funded companies, in this case, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Up to now, deliveries in manned rockets have been handled by the U.S., Russia, Japan and the European Union. Last year, NASA retired its shuttle program after 30 years in anticipation of such private and international missions.
SpaceX, a Hawthorne, California-based company, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 trips to the ISS.
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