Slow and steady is the key to successfully dock the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX just recently released an online simulator where users can attempt to manually dock the space vehicle themselves.

Crew Dragon will be taking its first human passengers to the ISS at the end of November. Unlike the online simulation, the vehicle is designed to automatically approach the ISS without user input. Of course, the entire crew is still trained to take off the controls in case something goes wrong. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will also be testing the system during the mission with a bit of manual flying.

Successful docking is a combination of rotation controls and position controls. There is also a precision toggle at the center of both controls. It would be best to use smaller movements when the user is near the ISS to dock correctly and not cause damage to the station.

Crew Dragon Docks to the ISS

The Crew Dragon successfully docked to the ISS on November 17, 11:01 p.m. EST with NASA's Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and JAXA's Soichi Noguchi. They will then join the crew who arrived at the ISS last month.

This marks the beginning of the team's six-month science mission at the ISS. NASA's Jim Bridenstine said that the current mission is the agency's commitment to both the United States and their international partners using American private industry to accomplish the longes stay aboard the laboratory.

Crew Dragon also carried cargo such as new science hardware and experiments. For example, Food Physiology is a study on the crew's health and diet. There is also the student-designed Genes in Space-7 experiment to understand how spaceflight affects the brain. These critical experiments will enable researchers to keep space explorers healthy for future long-duration missions such as the upcoming Moon and Mars missions.

One of the research projects the crew will conduct involves chips with tissue known as organoids that replicate live human organs. The organoid study will help researchers understand how microgravity can affect health and illnesses. They will also be growing radishes in different types of light and soil to continue ongoing experiments of growing food in the station.

Read Also: The International Space Station Marks 20 Years of Continuous Human Presence In Space

Future Space Stations

These may be some of the last significant research studies in the ISS as it is expected to retire after government funding will end around 2024. Currently, several private companies have been developing their technologies to create space stations that will range from research laboratories to commercial stations for tourism.

Michael Suffredini, the owner of Axiom Space, is one of the private companies designing their station that will initially dock to the ISS the expand after the senior station retires. Space exploration is evolving into settling, he said, with the long-term vision of permanently living outside Earth.

Read Also: Commercial Space Stations May Soon Replace the International Space Station 

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