Cape Canaveral, Florida. A SpaceX spacecraft loaded with ants, avocados and a human-sized robot arm blasted off Sunday for the International Space Station.
The shipment, expected to arrive on Monday, is the company’s 23rd delivery to NASA in just under a decade.
A recycled Falcon rocket lifted off before dawn from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. After launching the Dragon capsule, the first stage of the rocket landed vertically on Space X’s new ocean platform.
The Dragon carries more than 4,800 pounds of supplies and experiments, as well as fresh foods like avocado, lemon, and even ice cream for the seven astronauts on the space station.
Girl Scouts sent ants, small crustaceans called brine shrimp, and plants as subjects for experiments, while scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sent Arabidopsis seeds, a small flowering herb used in genetic research. There will also be zero-gravity tests using cement, solar panels and other materials.
On the other hand, an experimental robotic arm developed by a young Japanese company will attempt to roll objects in their first appearance in orbit and carry out other routine tasks usually performed by astronauts.
The first tests will be conducted inside the space station, while future models of the robot Gitai Inc. It will venture out into space to repair satellites and other equipment, according to CTO Toyotaka Kozuki.
He added that starting in 2025, a team of such weapons could help build lunar bases and drill the moon in search of valuable resources.
SpaceX has had to leave some trials on the ground due to delays caused by COVID-19.
The ship left on its second attempt after bad weather prevented its scheduled launch on Saturday.
NASA turned to SpaceX and other US companies to bring cargo and crew to the space station when the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
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