Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 May 23

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches to the Space Station
Image Credit: NASA

Explanation: This fire-breathing Dragon can fly. Pictured above yesterday, SpaceX Corporation's Falcon 9 rocket capped with a Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. The successful launch was significant not only because it demonstrated that a private company has the ability to re-supply the International Space Station (ISS), but also that spaceflight has taken a significant step away from being an endeavor that only big governments can do with public money. If all continues as planned, the robotic Dragon will dock with the ISS this weekend. Over the next two weeks, the ISS Expedition 31 crew will then unload Dragon and refill it with used scientific equipment. In about three weeks, the ISS's robotic arm will then undock Dragon and move it to where it can fire its rockets. Soon thereafter the Dragon capsule is expected to reenter the Earth's atmosphere, deploy its parachutes, splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, and be recovered.

Now 444 Codes: The Astrophysics Source Code Library
Tomorrow's picture: aqua europa

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