My 50th day in space and certainly a big day here on ISS yesterday – as I’m sure you’ve heard, Dragon has arrived! We now have a new room attached to Node 2 nadir, right next to our crew quarters : all the time I’ve been up here there was a hatch to vacuum there, now I can make the turn and “dive down” into Dragon. Our home in space just got bigger!
Approach and capture happened in the morning and, at least from what we could tell from our perspective, everything went really well. It was quite touching to watch this vehicle approach ISS and to discern more and more details as it came closer, a messenger from Earth bringing supplies to the only six humans currently not on the planet.
I was impressed at how steady it was as it came up from below us: you could hardly notice it controlling its position and attitude. As it stopped at the last holding point at 30 meters it felt already so close, I couldn’t believe that it would get still 20 meters closer before we could grapple it, but of course out there we don’t have many references to gauge distance. It arrived at the capture point, at 10 meters distance, during orbital night, with the red and green lights on the sides reflecting beautifully on the solar arrays. Just after sunrise we got a “GO for capture” from Houston and Butch smoothly maneuvered the robotic arm onto the grapple pin and pulled the trigger to initiate the capture sequence. I had all the malfunction cue cards ready, but fortunately there was no need for them. Everything went perfectly!
After that we safed the arm and ground took control to maneuver the Dragon to its berthing position at the Node 2 nadir port. Once the bolts that create a solid mechanical connection were driven, I received a go to leak check the vestibule: if you’re wondering what that is, let’s say that it’s the space between the doors.
We have a hatch on our side, Dragon has a hatch on its side: when the hatches are open, we need a pressure-tight “corridor” in between that allows us to go through; that is called the vestibule. Just after berthing, the vestibule is at vacuum: if you think about it, it’s outside of the hatch on our side and outside of the hatch on the Dragon side. Before we equalize pressure and open the hatch, it’s important to make sure that the vestibule doesn’t leak. For that purpose I opened a patch between the vestibule and the ISS cabin atmosphere and pressurized the vestibule to 260 mmHg, then verified that the pressure remained stable for 20 minutes. At that point, I fully equalized pressure and Terry and Butch took over to open the hatch and work on reconfiguring the vestibule for the time Dragon will stay on ISS.
At some point, once the hatch on our side was open, Terry invited me to smell the “smell of space” in the vestibule. It’s sort of a joke, of course, space itself doesn’t smell. But it’s apparently the typical smell of hardware that has been exposed to vacuum. Not a pleasant odor, I tell you: I’d say the dominant component is “burned” with a touch of “rotten”. But hey, if that means that a spaceship came to visit, I’ll take it anytime!
Futura mission website (Italian): Avamposto42
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(Trad FR) Traduction en français par ici:
(Trad ES - Currently not updated) Tradducción en español aquí:
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