When the unmanned SpaceX CRS-3 Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station on Easter Sunday, it had a little something for everybody. Astronauts got their own lettuce garden. Robonaut 2 finally got his legs. And the space station even got new visitors: 48 bacterial cultures, courtesy of Project MERCCURI, that will be tested to determine how they respond to gravity (or its relative lack thereof). Add in a few cameras, lasers, and an immune system testing kit, and you have a remarkable payload.
You can watch a 10-minute montage of NASA’s live narrated coverage of the SpaceX Dragon 3 arriving and docking at the International Space Station here. This is actual video—no computer simulations here—and it’s amazing to watch:
The lovely thing about these SpaceX missions is that they’re relatively cheap, relatively low-risk (being unmanned and all), and adaptable to a wide range of potential payloads. As the ISS and its successors continue to rely on new equipment and supplies over the next few years, SpaceX will be able to continue to refine its Dragon capsule technology. It is, like most other things associated with the ISS, an unmitigated benefit to the international scientific community.