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.
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.
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