A private cargo ship brought the makings of an Easter feast as well as some Canadian-made treats to the International Space Station on Friday, along with mice and little flying robots.
American astronaut Anne McClain and Canada’s David Saint-Jacques used the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm 2, to capture Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule as they soared 415 kilometres above France.
The Cygnus and its 3,450-kilogram shipment rocketed from Wallops Island, Virginia, on Wednesday, completing the trip in a quick day and a half. It holds numerous science experiments, including 40 mice taking part in a tetanus vaccination study, and three boxy free-flying robots designed to assist astronauts inside and out.
It also carries so-called “smart shirts” and sample collection kits that will be used to gather data for a Canadian study on arterial stiffening and insulin resistance in astronauts.
NASA also packed more than 800 meals for the six station residents. Their holiday choices include pork chops with gravy, smoked turkey, potatoes au gratin, lemon meringue pudding and apricot cobbler.
The Canadian Space Agency says the Canadian-made items include smoked salmon, maple cream cookies and a bison chili based on Saint-Jacques’ favourite family recipe.
Northrop Grumman named this Cygnus the S.S. Roger Chaffee after the youngest of the three astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 spacecraft fire in 1967. Chaffee was the only one on the crew who never made it to space.
“It’s great to have the S.S. Roger Chaffee officially on board,” McClain radioed. “We never forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Please know that every day we remember his sacrifice and that we will continue to honour his legacy by pursuing his passion for exploration. To the S.S. Roger Chaffee, welcome aboard.”
Two hours after its arrival, the capsule was anchored onto the space station by flight controllers working remotely from Houston. The Cygnus will remain there until July, when it is released with trash for a few months of solo orbiting in a test by Northrop Grumman. It ultimately will make a fiery re-entry.
Besides McClain and Saint-Jacques, there are two other Americans living on the space station, as well as two Russians. They will receive another shipment in just over a week from NASA’s other commercial supplier, SpaceX.