NASA Astronaut Anne McClain took a breathtaking photo of the SpaceX Crew Dragon as it approaches the International Space Station.
In a tweet, McClain called the March 2 launch "[the] dawn of a new era in human spaceflight." The Crew Dragon is the first commercial-crew vehicle to dock to the ISS and the first to be launched from the United States since the Space Shuttle program was shut down in 2011.
In the photo, the capsule appears as a silhouette in front of the rising sun and the Earth. The atmosphere is illuminated with shades of blue, orange, and red.
The ISS Welcomes The Crew Dragon
The Crew Dragon successfully approached and docked on the ISS on early morning Sunday, March 3. The vehicle was uncrewed except for an inanimate pilot, — a mannequin wearing a spacesuit which was named Ripley (after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien) — and a small plushy made by a company called Celestial Buddies that was employed by SpaceX as a "super high tech zero-g indicator."
The little Earth plushy pretty much became a member of the Expedition 58 crew. It was given a tour of the space station, accompanying astronauts as they went through their tasks.
Its constant companion, McClain, has been posting photos of the stuffed planet on Twitter. In one photo, little Earth observes Mother Earth through the outpost's window.
Yes buddy, that's your Mother Earth. Isn't she beautiful? pic.twitter.com/qY6KDbAIwb — Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 4, 2019
Little Earth also got to try space station coffee, wear an emergency mask, workout in microgravity, and share a meal with another resident of the ISS, the European Space Agency's Paxi.
(2/2)...then a favorite of the crew, group dinner! The candlelight dinner was also attended by Paxi, who is from @esa pic.twitter.com/lAin0TdfdO — Anne McClain (@AstroAnnimal) March 6, 2019
SpaceX Crew Dragon's Return To Earth
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Little Earth is expected to get back to the Crew Dragon capsule and return to the ground.
The vehicle is scheduled to separate from the ISS on Friday, March 8, and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA will be streaming the event live on its website beginning at 2 a.m. EST when the capsule undocks. The livestream for Crew Dragon's descent and landing begins at 7:30 a.m. EST.