This Memorial Day, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be unloading cargo from SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon capsule, the first private spacecraft ever to visit the ISS.
SpaceX's Dragon capsule made history both on Friday, when it docked with the station, and on Saturday when the hatches between Dragon and the ISS orbital lab were opened, allowing the crew to access the 1,014 pounds of cargo that the capsule transported.
NASA astronauts Don Pettit and Joe Acaba, European astronaut Andre Kuipers, and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin are currently living in the ISS and will action most of the unloading (which will take about 25 hours and consists mostly of food and clothing). "There's about as much stuff in here as I can put in the back of my pickup truck” Pettit told reporters.
SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 privately-financed supply runs to the space station. Dragon's current mission is a demonstration flight to see if the capsule and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket are ready to start the cargo deliveries somewhere in September.
The capsule will stay docked to the lab until May 31, when it will detach and return to Earth with about 1,400 pounds of used gear splashing down in the Pacific Ocean from which it will be retrieved by SpaceX personnel using a recovery ship.