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SpaceX Dragon Spies Earth

The Earth from SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle after May 22, 2012 blast off. Credit: SpaceX

All systems are functioning nominally aboard the Earth orbiting Dragon cargo carrier launched yesterday, May 22, atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX has released the picture above of the Earth as seen by a thermal imager that Dragon will use in its upcoming approach to the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9/Dragon duo thundered to space at 3:44 a.m. on May 22 from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a historic mission to be the first private spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station (ISS).

Docking is expected on Friday morning May 25 after an intricate series of maneuvering tests are conducted to prove that the Dragon spacecraft can safely approach and dock at the ISS.

Dragon is loaded with about 1200 pounds of supplies on a test flight aimed at showing it can partially replace the cargo carrying duties of the now retired NASA space shuttles.

Watch NASA TV for live docking coverage

Read my launch article here

Ken Kremer


Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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  • SJStar May 23, 2012, 1:22 PM

    Apollo 11
    “One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

    Now it is…

    “One small step for America, one giant leap for Corporations.”

    How far has a once mighty principled country has fallen…

    • MarcoMD May 23, 2012, 8:59 AM

      How sad you are. Private corporations are the way forward for routine use of and travel to space. NASA should focus on the heroic, cutting edge stuff instead of continually making circles around the Earth. Private companies are always more efficient than the government at the routine. If you want to mope and be dramatically maudlin, look at all of the budget cuts to NASA over the past three years. Earth orbit and soon the Moon should be the domain of private companies as NASA pushes to Mars and beyond. Then, Mars should become within the commercial envelope as NASA pushes onward to the stars. However, NASA is being starved, by the government. So the space dream is being picked up by commercial visionaries. I say hurrah to them, go where the government is now failing; and they are now keepers of the dream.

    • TomN May 23, 2012, 2:06 PM

      You are ignoring all the centuries of innovation that was brought about by people who wanted to make a buck while improving people’s lives. As an example –
      General Electric – Founded by Thomas Edison (among other things)
      George Westinghouse
      Henry Ford
      Kodak – founded by George Eastman
      Benjamin Franklin (what didn’t he do in his day?)
      Charles Goodyear
      Microsoft – Bill Gates
      Apple – Steve Jobs
      And so on.

      And to go with the great misquote from Calvin Coolidge –
      “The Business of America is Business”.

      • SJStar May 23, 2012, 4:13 PM

        Space is different and ought to be. I note all listed here are Americans. Again. Americans don’t any celestial body beyond the Earth.

        You’re bias here s obvious!

        • krenshala May 23, 2012, 7:33 PM

          I’m not sure, but I think you didn’t the entire sentence.

        • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 1:55 AM

          “Space is different and ought to be.”

          No, it isn’t, and it shouldn’t. There is nothing sacred about the Universe beyond the atmosphere.

          If you wait for government to do whatever it is you want (and what exactly is that?) you will be waiting a long time, and at great expense, and requiring other people’s money, at that…

          “I note all listed here are Americans. Again. Americans don’t own any celestial body beyond the Earth. ”

          Have any here claimed so? Is that what’s happening? We’re praising a space transportation provider. You’re making quite a jump. Nor need one claim an entire body to one day utilize it. ‘All humanity’ isn’t going to take personal financial risk whenever such a time comes. Only specific people from specific places will.

    • TerryG May 23, 2012, 2:07 PM

      Check your fire! If you want to rally against corporate welfare and fat cost-plus contracts with the tax payer taking all the risks, then please do, but COTS is about fixed-price contracts where participants are paid only on achieving milestones.

      The principals being upheld here are that competition and the free market deliver innovation and solutions at the best price.

      Far from being “fallen”, we’er seeing things get onto a much better track.

    • SJStar May 23, 2012, 4:09 PM

      The fundamental principle is that American (or anyone else) cannot own any celestial body beyond the Earth. Once done, it become a point of no return. It is not American territory, and it has no mandate and no judicial or jurisdiction to maintain any corporate presence in space.

      Again, as quoted in the “Journal of Air Law and Commerce.” http://www.space-settlement-institute.org/Articles/jal73-1Wasser.pdf (Winter 2008) article “Space Settlements, Property Rights, and International Law: Could a Lunar Settlement Claim the Lunar Real Estate it Needs to Survive?

      HUMANITY’S SURVIVAL depends on moving out into the cosmos while the window of opportunity for doing so still exists. Besides helping to ensure the survival of humankind, the settling of space—including the establishment of permanent human settlements on the Moon and Mars—will bring incalculable economic and social benefits to all nations. The settlement of space would benefit all of humanity. It would open a new frontier, provide resources and room for growth of the human race without despoiling the Earth, energize our society, and as Dr. Stephen Hawking has pointed out, create a lifeboat for humanity that could survive even a planet-wide catastrophe. But, as Dr. Lawrence Risley pointed out, “Exploration is not suicidal and it is usually not altruistic, rather it is a means to obtain wealth. There must be rewards for the risks being taken.

      I for one don’t want to live under an American moon, let alone a corporate driven American one! :(

      • Mastercope May 23, 2012, 6:33 PM

        Then leave, their are other places to live other than America,,,,,,,,,,,,

        I for one don’t want to live under an American moon, let alone a corporate driven American one! :(

        • SJStar May 23, 2012, 8:08 PM

          Thank god I’m not American. Who’d want to be proven as a hypocrite.

          • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 2:29 AM

            And *you* have done nothing to tell us what kind of space development you *want* to see accomplished (and by whom), only what (and who) you are against.

            Please come back with some sort of plan to parcel out extraterrestrial resource rights (even if you don’t call it ‘ownership’), that’s a little more specific than ‘for humanity.’

          • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 2:29 AM

            And *you* have done nothing to tell us what kind of space development you *want* to see accomplished (and by whom), only what (and who) you are against.

            Please come back with some sort of plan to parcel out extraterrestrial resource rights (even if you don’t call it ‘ownership’), that’s a little more specific than ‘for humanity.’

      • krenshala May 23, 2012, 7:44 PM

        I don’t think you understand the intent of what you quoted.

      • zkank May 23, 2012, 11:38 PM

        I’m not an American, but I wouldn’t have a problem with them, or any other Nation that had occupied outposts and laid claim.

        Do you think that everything in the solar system should be treated as Antarctica is, forever?
        With that attitude, nothing will get done!

      • Mastercope May 24, 2012, 5:56 PM

        What is your point here, please explain, just who’s moon do you want to live under,

    • Olaf2 May 23, 2012, 4:58 PM

      That is cheating, SpaceX did not invent the space technology, taxpayers money in the Apollo projects, Space shuttles and before did.

      SpaceX is using the already invented tools. Only here and there do they create new technology to improve their designs.

      I am not saying that what they did was nothing, but don’t put the everything on SpaceX.
      Remember Google, when it was small then it was every ones favourite. Just like Google SpaceX will grow to a mega industry and the charm of a little company that could becomes a pure money making scheme. You will probably hate SpaceX in 5 years from now.

      This is a commercial company. Managers in commercial companies only do it for the big bucks.

      • Mastercope May 23, 2012, 6:30 PM

        NASA Offered them the Technology in data base and Science of travel, all the Hardware ,Engines and Craft are all SpaceX design. Uh, yeah this is Capitalism, start your own Company and make your own Bucks , quit complaining about others, The Mantra of SpaceX is to the future of mankind not being a single planetary species, they will give at the cost of one Shuttle launch 12 Missions to the ISS. Go to the SpaceX website and read there manifest and milestones. But I believe anyone of them will tweek you and any nay Sayers. Back off and let the New Era Begin.

    • MarcoMD May 23, 2012, 12:01 PM

      Once again, your biases are showing. I did not see anything in my or any other response to you that implied that only American companies can be in space. Any country’s corporations would be fine, the competition would be good for all. As for treaties and agreements, I think that those will and must be revisited as the human presence in space expands. A quick check of history shows that to be the case thorugh out human expansion. As for living under an American Moon, what a silly notion you have. First off, there are only six flags on the Moon, and they are all the Stars and Stripes. Second, if you want other nations to be represented there, then I suggest instead of whining about our presence there, you work on developing your own country’s ability to get there. If your country can’t or won’t, then stop complaining about one that can and has done great things.

    • Mastercope May 23, 2012, 6:36 PM

      I for one don’t want to live under an American moon, let alone a corporate driven American one! :(

      “One small step for America, one giant leap for Corporations.”

      Ones, self made quotes do not set the precedence,,, try again

    • Robert Gishubl May 24, 2012, 1:31 AM

      SJStar, get off your arse and improve your own situation and stop whining that someone else has achieved something you have not.
      You completely miss the significance of this, comercial space means that anyone with the capital can now access space. SpaceX and Bigelow are teaming up to tour international markets to sell seats and habitat time to countries that want to be involved in space but do not have the capability for a stand alone capability. SpaceX will become like Boeing or Airbus and there will be competition meaning you will be able to buy a mission and do your own exploring and get a bit a lunar surface or a space rock for yourself. Growth and expansion requires resources and they are in space.
      Failure to grow wil lead to stagnation and then decay, space is the next frontier, get involved and grow or sit back and wonder why everyone else is better off.

      Amarica is the land of the free, free to work hard and improve your own situation. It is not ment to be the land of government control of everything.

      • SJStar May 24, 2012, 10:10 AM

        “get off your arse” Up yours!

    • Mastercope May 24, 2012, 6:04 PM

      No matter how far we “Americans” have fallen, when other countries need help , who do they call!

  • Shawn Schuiteboer May 23, 2012, 4:17 PM

    Indeed you have grown strong, Elon. This Thermal Imager of yours works splendidly.

  • SJStar May 23, 2012, 5:08 PM

    One of the narrowest views I’ve read. Americans are not automatically privileged, and pretending otherwise just shows your folly.

    Does the same apply to other countries too?

    I think other countries governments should seriously think about boycotting all American aerospace companies, as it is against their own more altruistic motives of using space to support humanity.

    • MarcoMD May 23, 2012, 5:25 PM

      Your bias and envy is showing. You can read my second response to you. I wold be happy to have your country boycott US aerospace firms. It would help drive down prices for all others. It is small people like you who have held us all back. Did you not hear the American astronauts talk about ‘coming for all mankind’ and other similar comments from American astronauts. Did you ever hear such sentiments from Soviet cosmonauts, or even the Chinese ones? If you are so jealous of our accomplishments, try to match or exceed them. Instead, you whine. As an American, I am proud of the Indians and their recent successes with their lunar probes. I admire the Ariane 5 as that massive rocket blasts into space. I acknowledged the accomplishments of the Soviets as they took the early lead in the space race and took pride that humans were ‘out there’. I look forward to Chinese contributions as they continue to develop. Those are human accomplishments, and so I am proud of them all. You, are too small to see that. How sad.

      • SJStar May 23, 2012, 6:04 PM

        Armstrong said “…a giant leap for Mankind.” With your rhetoric here, that is clearly a bald-faced lie!

        • MarcoMD May 23, 2012, 6:11 PM

          We meant everyone except you.

          • SJStar May 23, 2012, 6:24 PM

            You don’t know what your saying…

          • krenshala May 23, 2012, 7:40 PM

            Are you someone special?

          • SJStar May 23, 2012, 8:19 PM

            No. Just someone who is wary of ‘Americans bearing gifts! It comes with too high a price tag.

          • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 2:21 AM

            Then I guess you should light a fire under European, Russian and Chinese (and any other) launch providers to do better (They *are* in it for the money too, friend. This is not about ‘gifts’ at all.), rather than railing at one company’s current success…

          • wjwbudro May 24, 2012, 8:02 PM

            Case in point, the price tag rise for a seat on a Soyuz ride to the ISS.

        • Mastercope May 24, 2012, 5:49 PM

          OMG man where is your head at. Look at the ISS it is commanded and populated by many Nations, flown to by many nations, you sir are a useless argument.

    • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 2:16 AM

      “Does the same apply to other countries too?”

      Why think you not?

      Whenever MarcoMD said ‘private’ or ‘commercial,’ he did not preceded it with ‘American,’ did he?

      The more individual entities out there, the better. (VFRMark hopes for Skylon success, and so do I. It’s the kind of technology I *wish* NASA was working on, instead of the SLS dead end, but if the next generation of low cost space transportation to LEO comes from the U.K, God bless them for it. Space Adventures wants to conduct circumlunar tourism on Russian hardware. Utterly fine with me.)

      “I think other countries governments should seriously think about boycotting all American aerospace companies, as it is against their own more altruistic motives of using space to support humanity.”

      What exactly does it mean to ‘support humanity?’ Have you forgotten that space has *long* been commercialized for telecommunications purposes? Satellites (not all of which are of American manufacture, or launch…Arianespace and the Russian and Chinese launch providers would be quite surprised at your proposal) don’t care what language is passing through them, any more than wire or fiber optic do, and international users *are* benefited.

      Physical resources will be the same way. Oh, and without damaging the one planet we currently know to have life, in the process…

      Unless your idea of ‘benefit’ is to just have private entities work hard to develop a capability, then just *give* it away. (and if not your meaning, then what?) That will not last long. Indeed, even seeking profit, some *will* fail. No business (or government) can be guaranteed success, no matter what flag they fly. Even for SpaceX, the evidence is encouraging, but the jury is still out. That’s just the way it is.

  • SJStar May 23, 2012, 5:50 PM

    “First off, there are only six flags on the Moon, and they are all the Stars and Stripes.” ..and what of the Russian landers?

    Also read; “Space Settlements, Property Rights, and International Law: Could a Lunar Settlement Claim the Lunar Real Estate it Needs to Survive?”, then you might understand what I’m saying.

    As or the rest… So what?

    • MarcoMD May 23, 2012, 6:07 PM

      As impressive as it was for the Soviets to land those unmanned probes on the Moon, especially with the technology of the time, there are no footprints around them. As for the rest, I am not surprised that you don’t understand it. As for the treaty, who cares? Treaties come and go all the time. Why would I waste time reading something that smacks of being a publicity stunt when it was issued. I am happy that you put so much faith in a piece of paper versus real accomplishment. Every country in the world has violated real and substantial treaties when it suited them, much less fluff like the one you harp on. That is a constant theme in history. The fishwrap to which you refer will not outlast the first national interest to come along. Eventually, real agreements will be put in place and some countries will even follow them for a while. Read some history and your amusing faith in that document you keep waving will disappear. Instead of whining, why don’t you enjoy what others have done. We are in space because of the Americans, the Soviets and then the Russians, the European Space Agency, the Japanese, the Indians, the Chinese, and because of the contributions of many others. I admire, take pride in, and encourage them all and any other country that reaches upward and onward.

      • SJStar May 23, 2012, 6:13 PM

        …as long as they don’t claim ownership.

        • krenshala May 23, 2012, 7:35 PM

          How exactly would you stop them from claiming ownership of something off the Earth?

          • SJStar May 23, 2012, 8:12 PM

            Thanks. You’ve just proven my overall point.

          • krenshala May 24, 2012, 2:54 PM

            And you’ve shown you don’t have the ability to back up your arguments with reasonable points. Or any points at all for that matter.

    • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 2:23 AM

      And that will apply to *anyone* who can get there and create such a settlement. Again. you see the prefix ‘American’ where none exists.

  • Mastercope May 23, 2012, 6:41 PM

    To the nay sayers here a quote from NASA themselves,,,,

    “We’re now back on the brink of a new future, a future that embraces the innovation the private sector brings to the table,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The significance of this day cannot be overstated. While there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are off to a good start.”

    • SJStar May 23, 2012, 8:40 PM

      Yeah. An American future. Stuff everyone else…

      22nd of May 2012. Another day in history that will go down infamy .

      • delphinus100 May 24, 2012, 1:48 AM

        And it would have taken a fully government program (still using ‘corporate’ contractors, thanks) How much more time and money to accomplish the same thing…?

      • Mastercope May 24, 2012, 6:01 PM

        Then go to the Hobbie shop and buy a many rocket engines as you can strap them to a cardboard tube, get clearance from “your” country and have a go!!

    • Olaf2 May 24, 2012, 4:39 PM

      That are almost the exact same words when SpaceShipOne was launched.
      We are 8 years later, nothing exiting happened since then.

      • Mastercope May 24, 2012, 5:42 PM

        What you just woke up today?

  • Kevin Frushour May 23, 2012, 9:07 PM

    I see Dragon accidentally passed through a wormhole and is over 1950’s era Earth.

    • Olaf2 May 24, 2012, 4:37 PM

      Yeah probably that black hole that was seen on the pictures of Earth here a couple of days ago.

  • VFRMark May 23, 2012, 11:45 PM

    I’m rooting for Skylon myself but these guys deserve credit for opening a new window on access to space, Skylon if all goes well, will open a new door :)

    • M Peter Selman May 24, 2012, 6:55 AM

      They proved their lightweight heat exchanger, which is essential for building a jet/rocket hybrid engine. Granted, Skylon might take a decade or longer to reach Dragon’s current accomplishment. By then, ReactionEngines may face tough competition if SpaceX or BlueOrigin attain the cost reductions they are striving for. It’s hard to say; Britain has a very poor history in their space investments, such as canceling the country’s first orbital rocket after a successful launch. European investors may step up to the plate. We just have to wait and see.

      • VFRMark May 24, 2012, 10:43 PM

        We have a proud heritage in engineering and technological firsts, if it gets off the ground I don’t think there will be much to compare it with, which will be an accomplishment in itself, it will be an evolution in earth to orbit engine technology with huge return potential, we have a poor history in space access tech investment I’ll give you that, but we are enormously successful in other areas such as satellite technology etc, our role in space tech is often downplayed, if all goes well RollsRoyce will get the contract for building the powerplants, I just hope they’re not aggressively bought out by the MIC. It’s my belief that the guys behind this concept want politics as far away from it’s development as possible, they have been in that bed before with the MOD when they were designing Hotol, they’ve spent thirty years developing this new concept and so far, it’s looking good, but like you say, it’s wait and see…

    • Aqua4U May 24, 2012, 7:03 PM

      I VERY much like this concept! A ‘Transformer’ like engine with components that are able to mechanically re-arrange themselves for maximum thrust through several flight regimens. NICE! If this idea ‘takes off’… everything else will seem amateur at best?

      • Aqua4U May 24, 2012, 7:08 PM

        I think next gen. Slylon might have ancillary ion drive engines similar to the VASIMR concept, augmented with collapsible solar sail/P.V. panel power combo for interplanetary propulsion?

        • VFRMark May 24, 2012, 10:24 PM

          I like your thinking that could be interesting, one possibility could be to dock to the centre of a torus ring and spin it for gravity for long haul flights, upon return they could undock and leave the torus module in orbit for the next mission.

  • Robert Gishubl May 24, 2012, 1:35 AM

    Great progress and as said by others this is the dawn of a new era in space exploration with inovation and speed of the corporate wolrd we should see rapid changes in space. Growth of new industries and most importantly hope for the future.

    • Olaf2 May 24, 2012, 4:40 PM

      So was the area of SpaceShipOne. Big claims how it would be revolutionary space travel at a fraction of the cost of the space shuttle. We are now 8 years later. Nothing special happened.

  • Aqua4U May 24, 2012, 7:15 PM

    What will be WAY double extre groovy cool, will be when Space X launches the Falcon Double Heavy with the first high powered MHD fusion reactor powering and propelling the Mars Expedition Transit Vehicle! GO Space X!

  • wjwbudro May 24, 2012, 7:59 PM

    Case in point, the price tag rise for a Soyuz ride to the ISS.