Denise Chow, Space.com (February 26, 2011)
"When NASA's shuttle Discovery arrived at the International Space Station Saturday (Feb. 26), it made some space history: It marked the first time ever that spaceships from four different space agencies were docked together at the same time.
"The historic moment occurred at 2:16 p.m. EST (1916 GMT), when Discovery arrived at a docking port on NASA's Harmony module, a multi-port hub on the space station. The shuttle joined two Russian Soyuz space capsules and three robotic space freighters (from Europe, Japan and Russia) that were also docked to the orbiting lab.
" 'That that's about as many different visiting vehicles as you can imagine,' Discovery astronaut Alvin Drew radioed Mission Control in Houston before the docking...."
(NASA TV, via Space.com, used w/o permission)
"NASA's space shuttle Discovery is shown docked to the International Space Station shortly after arriving on Feb. 26, 2011. The gold spacecraft at the bottom of this view is Japan's HTV-2 spacecraft. CREDIT: NASA TV"
HTV-2 is a robot, by the way. This is definitely not the Lemming's 'good old days,' when robots in 'the future' were generally imagined as looking a bit like Star Wars' C3PO - and many assumed that space flight needed the human touch for all but the simplest missions.
Today, we've got over a half-dozen spaceports here in America, many more around the world, and at least one commercial outfit getting ready to offer rental property in orbit. And quite a number of next-generation freighters either in service or on the drawing boards.
Speaking of C3PO, there's the humanoid (well, half-humanoid) robot that Discovery delivered on this run. Not as bright as the Star Wars character, and that's another topic.
- "SpaceX's Dragon: Getting Closer to Commercial Service"
(December 8, 2010)
- "Last Flights of the First Space Freighters, New Construction at Spaceports"
(September 23, 2010)
- "Boeing CST-100 Spaceship: Passenger Service to ISS, Commercial Space Stations"
(July 21, 2010)
- "Humanity in Space: Looking at the Big Picture"
(January 29, 2010)
- "A Freighter Unloads its Cargo: What's the Big Deal?"
(September 20, 2009)