Incredible Dragon Approach and Berthing – Image Gallery from Andre Kuipers aboard ISS

by Ken Kremer on May 27, 2012

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Dragon approaching International Space Station (ISS) over Namibia on May 25, 2012
Hours on end monitoring Dragon's approach is no punishment. Here over Namibia.
Credit: Andre Kuipers/ESA/NASA
Photo Gallery below

On Friday, May 25, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) made space history when they deftly reached out with the stations robotic arm and grabbed the approaching SpaceX Dragon resupply carrier and then parked the first ever commercial cargo craft at an open port on the massive lab complex while orbiting some 407 kilometers (253 miles) above Earth - check out the gallery here !

Working in tandem, NASA astronaut Don Pettit and ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers snared the Dragon craft as it was drifting in free space about 10 m (32 ft) away with the 18 m (58 ft) long Canadian robot arm at 9:56 a.m. EDT and connected the first privately built capsule to a parking spot on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony Node 2 module on the ISS at 12:02 p.m. EDT on May 25.

Dragon over the Rocky Mountains. Credit: Andre Kuipers/ESA/NASA

Here’s a gallery of images from Andre Kuipers showing the Dragon’s rendezvous, grappling and docking at the million pound Earth orbiting space station currently inhabited by a crew of 6 astronauts and cosmonauts working as a united team from the US, Russia and the Netherlands and representing humanities tenuous foothold at the High Frontier.

All these photos were taken on May 25, 2012 using a Nikon D2Xs.

The crew ‘Entered the Dragon’ for the first time on Saturday, May 26.

Over the next few days, the crew will unload the living provisions, supplies and equipment loaded aboard the Dragon capsule and then refill it with science samples and trash for the return trip to Earth.

Dragon will undock from the ISS on May 31 and splash down hours later off the coast of California in the Pacific Ocean.

And through May 31, you can spot and photograph the Dragon/ISS combo orbiting overhead – read my article here for further details.

Approach to 10 metres. Credit: Andre Kuipers/ESA/NASA

Manoeuvring Dragon to the docking port. Credit: Andre Kuipers/ESA/NASA

Like this it looks a bit like a model from a 70's sci-fi film. Credit: Andre Kuipers/ESA/NASA

Dragon and Earth. Credit: Andre Kuipers/ESA/NASA

Teamwork in the Cupola during Dragon approach - Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers. Credit: ESA/NASA

Dragon is the world’s first commercial resupply vehicle. It was launched flawlessly atop a SpaceX built Falcon 9 booster on May 22 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Ken Kremer

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders 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 and NASA Wallops 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

Aqua4U May 27, 2012 at 7:29 PM

I yam totally enamored with the simplicity and functionality of the Dragon’s compact modular design and want to know more about the designer(s). Who ARE these guys? Placing that large docking port where they did conforms so elegantly to the entire shape of the aerodynamic package. No space wasted… yah gottah like that!

I must assume that the ‘top end’ designers are spaceflight veterans who perhaps were minimized or ‘side stepped’ (read LAID OFF) by the major aerospace concerns due to economics or philosophy? Ill bet there’s an interesting story in that! aka, who are the new Von Braun’s? Jah-jah?

Elan himself is said to have contributed significantly to that design effort. How so, and where, besides the obvious economic surge? At this point, I can only wonder how much of his input is seen in the final design?

Aqua4U May 27, 2012 at 7:48 PM

Ooops… scuse me, “… Who ARE these guys and gals?…”

Duh….

GayLetitia May 29, 2012 at 6:49 PM

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Shawn Schuiteboer May 27, 2012 at 7:33 PM

Yes yes. Elon is great. Forged the Dragon with his very mind. But lets up the ante now. Put people on this thing. :)

MitlonDValler May 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM

Fantastic! I was following news online and TV hoping for success. Great story in a world full of downer news. I’m very pleased.
My only disappointment is that it’s a splasher landing. After watching Shuttle all these years glide to a runway landing and Soyuz bumping to a landing in Kazakhstan and the locals run out to greet the new arrivals, a Pacific cork landing seems so, well, Mercury!

I love this pic of the Soyuz astronauts:
http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/after-hours/2011/11/22/soyuz-returns-station-crew-to-earth-40094483/

Robert Gishubl May 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM

The longer term plan is to have Dragon land using the LAS rockets with the parachute water landing as a fallback. However SpaceX is learning to crawl befire they walk and run so to start with it is water landings on expendable rockets before it is rocket landings using re-usable rockets.
The SpaceX plan is just amazing and I hope they can succeed.

Bill T. May 28, 2012 at 12:33 AM

Outstanding!

A. Leahy May 28, 2012 at 8:58 AM

Nice compilation. Congrats to Ken Kremer on another good post here.

Mastercope May 28, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Anybody know where and how to get SpaceX Gear, like caps and tee’s seem hard to find

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