Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Resilience successfully moves from one ISS docking port to another

With four astronauts on board the Dragon capsule Resilience tonight successfully undocked from one docking port on ISS and redocked to a different port.

This was the first time an American spacecraft had accomplished this task. It was necessary to clear the docking port that the next Dragon capsule, Endeavour, will use to bring its crew to ISS, presently set for launch on April 22nd.

Russian astronauts have piloted Soyuz spacecraft between different ports numerous times, both on ISS and on Russia’s earlier space stations. Tonight’s transfer by Resilience however was done entirely on autopilot. The American astronauts could have taken over manually at any time, but the spacecraft did the entire maneuver on its own.

There is a certain irony in how the Russians have always done this maneuver, manually, and how Resilience did this, without any human intervention. From the 1960s through the entire space shuttle program Americans and all its astronauts strongly demanded that their spacecraft be piloted, by the humans on board, rather than being controlled by software or ground control. The Russians instead insisted, at least initially, that while their astronauts had the capability of doing all maneuvers manually, their software or mission control should run things. This difference seemed to nicely symbolize the down-up nature of America versus the top-down culture of Russia.

Things are now reversed. I wonder if that tells us anything about the two cultures today.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • geoffc

    I do not get WHY they are transferring ports? Why not have Crew-2 just dock to the other up facing port?

    Also, this means there will be two Dragon Crew at the station at once (active handover), and 2 Soyuz, for a crew of 4 + 4 +3 +3.

  • mkent

    I do not get WHY they are transferring ports? Why not have Crew-2 just dock to the other up facing port?

    That port must be free for the SpX-22 cargo Dragon set to launch on June 3rd. That Dragon will carry a set of replacement solar arrays in its trunk, and the ISS robot arm can’t reach into the trunk to retrieve the arrays if the Dragon is docked to the forward port.

    Also, this means there will be two Dragon Crew at the station at once (active handover), and 2 Soyuz, for a crew of 4 + 4 +3 +3.

    No. The new Soyuz will launch on the 9th, and the old one will land on the 17th. The new crew Dragon won’t launch until the 22nd.

  • PR

    As tempted as you might be to see something admirable there, it mostly exposes a sad truth.

    Spacex has excellent software engineers and a newly developed modern spacecraft and the Russian equipment is increasingly old and unreliable and needs a human pilot for redundancy. The below article on leaks on zvezda can also be portrayed as some sort of evidence of the “can do” nature of the cosmonauts. But it really just tells us that the Russian equipment at the heart of the ISS is aging fast.

    Russians are an incredibly self reliant and capable people who often make up for the poor quality of their industry with excellent education and creativity. But they are falling behind as the new space companies put increasingly sophisticated spacecraft in orbit.

    Not much to admire there, unfortunately.

  • Richard M

    I don’t believe NASA specified a need for full automation in flight and docking (maybe they did, but I’d have to check that), but I think you can see why it makes sense for Commercial Crew flights in a way that was not true for Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury, even setting aside enormous advances in computer hardware and software. ISS is just a big research lab; crew transport to and from it are just milk runs — they are not “exploring” anything, nor do they need to prove out basic spaceflight technology. This allows the personnel focus to shift to scientists from test pilots.

    Also, the idea is that these vehicles can also be used for private spaceflights. That’s much easier to sell and do if Dragon and Starliner can do everything fully automated.

  • concerned

    I tend to agree with Richard M’s explanation above, but I share Bob’s sense of irony in how the USA has appeared to swap approaches with the former USSR.

  • Curious why four people were needed on-board. That seems too much risk by half. ‘Routine’ is still risky in a completely inhospitable environment. And anyone worthy of their wings would want to fly that thing.

  • A. Nonymous

    I imagine it’s so that if something went wrong and they were unable to dock, they’d be able to abort to surface while leaving enough seats on the remaining capsules to fit everybody that was still inside the station. You never want to have more crew than lifeboat seats, especially given the age and issues of the ISS.

  • Jeff Wright

    I wouldn’t read too much into the different approaches. On an unrelated note: I was thinking about Starship landing legs…imagine I get a circle/hoop of metal…and cut it into four parts. These are the skirt filling legs-with a cable running through holes in the bottom of the legs to lash them together and the legs helix down and in-rotating in sockets. This could be left behind on the Moon. Conventional legs for Earth-only use are behind doors like those used by shuttle landing gear. Another choice: imagine a child’s swingset-but the crossbar curving around Starship and a windlass. It teeter-totters over on its nose…and the back winched down so Starship lies flat on the Moon as a super-rover-base Landmaster. The A-frame legs now are moved over and above lava tube skylights.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *