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Sunita Tames the Dragon, Enters It Ahead of Schedule

Oct 11, 2012 08:36 AM EDT

SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship was successfully attached to the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module on its arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) Wednesday (Oct. 10).

After traveling for more than two days, the cargo ship reached the ISS and positioned itself about 32 feet away from the space station. Commander of Expedition 33 Sunita Williams and flight engineer Akihiko Hoshide used the Canadian robotic arm, Canadarm2, to dock the cargo resupply flight to the Harmony module at 9.00 a.m.

At 1:40 p.m. EDT Wednesday, both the astronauts opened the hatch to the cargo ship ahead of the scheduled time. Opening the hatch to the cargo flight was planned for Thursday, but Williams and Hoshide finished the berthing procedures faster and made an early entry into the ship, reported NASA.

Crew members of Expedition 33 will unpack 800 pounds of hardware equipments, science research and food supplies from the cargo craft.

The cargo has a freezer to send science samples between ISS and Earth. It also has chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream specially packed and sent for the crew aboard the ISS, reported Reuters.

"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon. We're happy she's on board with us. Thanks to everybody at SpaceX and NASA for bringing her here to us. And the ice cream," said Williams.

The Dragon capsule will return to Earth with 1,673 pounds of ISS cargo. The ISS crew will again use the robotic arm to undock the capsule and release it Oct. 28. Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.

Earlier, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule was launched Sunday at 8:35 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the first private spacecraft, owned by SpaceX, to be sent to the ISS. 

NASA has signed a $1.6 billion contract with the California-based company to use 12 of their cargo flights for future missions.

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