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Astronauts Open Dragon Capsule Hatch 138

Hexydes writes "Early in the morning (5:53 am EST) on May 26th, 2012, NASA gave the go-ahead for the Expedition 31 crew to begin the procedure to open the hatch on the Dragon capsule, now directly attached to the ISS. 'The hatch opening begins four days of operations to unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo from the first commercial spacecraft to visit the space station and reload it with experiments and cargo for a return trip to Earth. It is scheduled for splashdown several hundred miles west of California on May 31. Wearing protective masks and goggles, as is customary for the opening of a hatch to any newly arrived vehicle at the station, Pettit entered the Dragon with Station Commander Oleg Kononenko. The goggles and masks will be removed once the station atmosphere has had a chance to mix air with the air inside the Dragon itself.' Here is a video of the procedure."
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Astronauts Open Dragon Capsule Hatch

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  • by Thagg ( 9904 ) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:05AM (#40120557) Journal

    I have tremendous respect for Mr Musk and his team at SpaceX. To have designed and built the Falcon 9 and the Dragon, and to have them work perfectly every time, in the short time they had, is an amazing achievement.

    On the other hand, this really isn't the first "privately built" spacecraft. Almost all of the "NASA" rockets and spacecraft were built by independent contractors. NASA did a lot of the design work on the Saturn rockets and the spacecraft, but the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets were all designed by private contractors for the military. SpaceX has some advantage in that it's doing everything under one roof (literally).

    It is impressive to see that hatch open -- showing the depths of the cooperation between NASA and SpaceX. NASA has to have been working on this almost as hard as SpaceX over the past year to develop the procedures for the rendezvous, capture, and berthing of the Dragon. The opening of that hatch might not be as historic as the Apollo-Soyuz docking of the '70s but it's right up there.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:22AM (#40120671) Journal

    while there is no weight, objects still have mass and momentum so producing enough force to start moving 1000 lbs and producing enough to stop 1000 lbs is a big issue.

    No. It is no issue at all. You could push it with your finger. A fly could move it. If you apply 10 pounds of force for one second, it will start moving, and it will take exactly 10 pounds of force applied for one second in the opposite direction to stop it... or you could stop it by applying 5 lbs of force for two seconds.

  • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:23AM (#40120685)

    True, but this is different. SpaceX funded the development of its Falcon rockets almost entirely with private funding, and they are selling rides at a fixed price, rather than the "cost-plus" accounting that has been the standard for NASA since the 60's. Also, NASA has had a much "lighter touch" in the Dragon development than they've traditionally had with other contractors. They set the goals and guidelines (and provided a LOT of expertise and some funding too) but allowed SpaceX a lot of freedom to solve the problems in their own way. Elon can't say enough about how grateful he is for NASA's help. But by the same token, NASA officials are quick to note how "different" this has been from the previous business-as-usual.

    Regardless, I agree this is a "Big F---ing Deal" (as V.P. Biden might say). I've been looking forward to this mission for a LONG TIME. It's damn satisfying to see it all coming together at last.

  • The Dragon spacecraft is the first vehicle which has been built primarily with private funds, where the "ownership" of the vehicle does not belong to a government agency. When this vehicle returns to the Earth, while NASA will get all of the stuff that is inside of the vehicle, it doesn't "belong" to NASA. In fact SpaceX has even hinted that this particular vehicle might see a 2nd or 3rd flight in the future (in terms of the capsule itself). NASA's COTS contract requires a new vehicle for every flight, so those subsequent flights will likely go to paying commercial (read non-government) customers, but the spacecraft doesn't "belong" to NASA.

    The comparison here is more like how commercial airlines can lease their aircraft and crews to other people, including government agencies.

    In the case of most of those "privately built spacecraft", there is a huge difference between them and the Dragon. For things like the Space Shuttle, the Apollo spacecraft, or even things like the probes to other planets, they were designed by NASA engineers where all of the specifications and design requirements were decided upon by NASA management and had NASA personnel at nearly all levels of production. Any "private" companies were really contractors and sub-contractors who followed the lead of NASA supervision.

    Also it is important to point out that the other spacecraft that have flown to the ISS by American companies have also all been "owned" by NASA. If you tried to buy a Space Shuttle from North American-Rockwell International (yes, I know those companies are now owned by Boeing), you would have been politely told you simply can't buy them at any price. There were some people who tried to buy a Shuttle in the 1980's and simply couldn't. In the case of the Dragon, SpaceX will gladly sell you one and even help you out with the government paperwork needed to be able to use it and help schedule a launch for you as well. They will even help you through the process if you aren't an American (which does add paperwork and some hassles, but it can be arranged).

    I'll admit that commercial companies have been involved with the construction of spacecraft in the past, but this is something new. How different it can be will be seen with other projects that SpaceX is doing that will be completely private for-profit ventures not involving NASA at all.

  • by Vandil X ( 636030 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @11:00AM (#40120905)
    It's great that we have U.S.-based cargo delivery/recovery capacity again. This is definitely a huge milestone. However, the crewed-version of the Dragon will be the true, emotional U.S. milestone, as it replaces the human element lost with the retirement of the space shuttle.
  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @12:32PM (#40121427) Journal
    Actually, NASA behaved exactly like they should as the government agency for Space Administration: provide the specifications for interfaces, safety factors, and the like, act as a clearing house for technical information, set guidelines and milestones. NASA told commercial interests WHAT to do, and let the commercial interests decide HOW to do it.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.