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Major Tim 'catches the Dragon'

BBC News BBC News 11/04/2016

UK astronaut Tim Peake has successfully berthed the latest cargo ship to visit the International Space Station.

Using the platform's robotic arm, the Briton reached out to grab the Dragon freighter on Sunday, pulling it into the Harmony module.

"We show load is safe, and it looks like we've caught a Dragon," said Major Tim.

The capsule, sent up by private contractor SpaceX, is carrying just over three tonnes of equipment.

Included in the shipment is an expandable room that will be fitted to the ISS in the coming weeks.

Also in the cargo are Chinese cabbage seeds that astronauts will attempt to grow in orbit, and a group of mice which will be used to test drugs that might help combat muscle and bone loss in the weightless environment of space.

Meanwhile back on Earth, the main stage of the Falcon rocket that sent the Dragon on its way to the station on Friday has returned to port in Florida.

The booster made a return to a drone ship stationed out in the Atlantic after completing its ascent - the first time in five attempts that SpaceX had managed to recover one of its vehicles at sea.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters that the stage would now be re-fired on the ground to check its condition.

If no problems are found, it could make another flight, perhaps in June, Mr Musk said.

"This is a really good milestone for the future of spaceflight; I think it's another step towards the stars.

"In order for us to really open up access to space, we've got to achieve full and rapid re-usability, and being able to do that for the primary rocket booster is going to be a huge impact on cost.

"It's still going to take us a few years to make that smooth, make it efficient, but it's proven that it can work.

"There'll probably be some failures in the future, but we'll iron those out and get it to the point where it's routine and where the only changes to the rocket are to hose it down, add the propellant and fly again."

Satellite operator SES has already indicated that it would be happy to use a "second-hand rocket".

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