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Photos: Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

May 26, 2012 — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) made history on May 25, 2012, when its Dragon cargo spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle to berth at the International Space Station (ISS). Previously only four government agencies — the United States's NASA, Russia's Roscosmos, Japan's Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the European Space Agency (ESA) — had achieved this technical feat.

The vehicle was grappled by the space station's robotic arm and then attached to the Earth-facing port on the Harmony node.

ESA astronaut André Kuipers, who with NASA astronaut Don Pettit oversaw the berthing from on board the station, sent down these photos showing the Dragon's approach, capture and attachment, as well as what it looked like in the capsule.

Credit: ESA / NASA
 

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

André Kuipers: "Hours on end monitoring Dragon's approach is no punishment. Here over Namibia."

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft seen flying over the Rocky Mountains.

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

Dragon on final approach to the International Space Station station. Distance: 10 meters (32 feet).

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

Don Pettit: "It looks we've got us a Dragon by the tail."

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

André Kuipers: "Like this it looks a bit like a model from a 70's sci-fi film."

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

André Kuipers: "And the Dragon is in its lair! Task accomplished."

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

André Kuipers: "The gate to the Dragon's lair." (Dragon's common berthing mechanism hatch.)

Enter the Dragon: First private spacecraft at space station

André Kuipers: "Inside of the Dragon module. Beautiful. Spacious, Modern. Blue LEDs. Feels a bit like a sci-fi filmset. Of course it is from Los Angeles."

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