NASA has turned to SpaceX and other US companies to deliver cargo and crews to the space station. (Photo: Getty Images)
A SpaceX cargo of ants, an avocado, and a human-sized robotic arm flew to the International Space Station on Sunday.
The delivery — scheduled to arrive on Monday — is the company’s 23rd for NASA in just under a decade.
A recycled Falcon rocket blasted off into the pre-dawn sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Complex. After lifting the Dragon capsule, the first stage of the rocket landed on SpaceX’s latest ocean platform, dubbed “Lack of Gravity.” SpaceX founder Elon Musk has continued his tradition of naming lifeboats as a tribute to the late science fiction writer Ian Banks and his “Culture” series.
The Dragon is carrying more than 4,800 pounds (2,170 kilograms) of supplies and experiments, as well as fresh foods, including avocados, lemons, and even ice cream for the seven astronauts on the space station.
Girl Scouts send out ants, brine shrimp and plants as test subjects, while scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison donate seeds of garden cress, a small flowering herb used in genetic research. Samples of concrete, solar cells and other materials will also be subject to weightlessness.
Meanwhile, the experimental robotic arm of a young Japanese portrait will attempt to tie things together when they first appear in orbit and perform other normal tasks typically performed by astronauts. The first tests will be conducted inside the space station.
CTO Toyotaka Kozuki said that future models of the Gitai robot will venture into the void of space to conduct satellite repair and other work.
He added that as early as 2025, a combination of these weapons could help build bases on the Moon and mine the Moon for valuable resources.
SpaceX has had to abandon some trials due to delays caused by COVID-19.
It was the second launch attempt. Saturday’s test has been canceled due to inclement weather.
NASA turned to SpaceX and other US companies to deliver cargo and crew to the space station after the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
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