NASA astronaut Anne McClain captured an absolutely stunning image of SpaceX’s historic Crew Dragon spacecraft as it approached the International Space Station. The photo, which was shared by McClain on Twitter today, was joined by the caption, “The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight.” SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which was designed to transport humans, successfully docked with the ISS for the first time.
Visible in McClain’s image is the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule forming a silhouette in the Earth’s curved glow. The photo gives an artistic look at the scientific endeavor, one that marks the beginning of a new era of spaceflight from US soil. The Crew Dragon successfully arrived at the ISS after launching from Florida.
The historic mission wasn’t manned for its Demo-1 initial launch — rather, this was a test to ensure the company was capable of delivering its spacecraft to the ISS as expected. The mission was completed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which also includes a contract with Boeing.
The development is part of an overall goal of bringing manned spaceflight back to US soil. NASA has been relying on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for its ISS trips since 2011, which come at the pricey rate of $80 million per seat. The space agency recent sought funds to purchase seats on the vehicle through 2020 over repeated delays in the Commercial Crew program, which raised concerns over whether NASA would be able to maintain its ISS presence.
Though the this marks the Crew Dragon’s historic entry into spaceflight history, this wasn’t SpaceX’s first trip to the International Space Station. The private space company has previously made 16 trips to the ISS using its Dragon capsule, which was used to transport (non-human) cargo.