This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, as Dragon approaches the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval.
The privately bankrolled Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station for a historic docking Friday, captured by astronauts wielding a giant robot arm. It succeeded in making the first commercial delivery into the cosmos. U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station's 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon after a few hours of extra checks and maneuvers.
The two vessels came together while sailing above Australia. "Looks like we've got us a dragon by the tail," Pettit announced from 250 miles up once he locked onto Dragon's docking mechanism. "You've made a lot of folks happy down here over in Hawthorne and right here in Houston," radioed NASA's Mission Control.
"Great job guys." NASA controllers clapped as their counterparts at SpaceX's control center in Hawthorne — including SpaceX's billionaire maestro, Elon Musk, of PayPal fame — lifted their arms in triumph and jumped out of their seats to exchange high fives. This is the first time a private company has attempted to send a vessel to the space station, an achievement previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies.
SpaceX — officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — is one of several companies vying for the chance to launch Americans from U.S. soil. That ability ended with NASA's final shuttle flight last summer. Musk, who founded SpaceX a decade ago,, said he can have astronauts riding his Dragon capsules to orbit in three or four years. Assuming all goes well Friday, the space station's six-man crew will release the Dragon next Thursday after filling it with science experiments and equipment.