The Expedition 66 astronauts working at the International Space Station (ISS) received a special holiday delivery from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft early morning on December 22, as part of the 24th Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-24). Like a modern Santa riding a rocket-sleigh, on December 21st the uncrewed Dragon was propelled to orbit by a Falcon 9 that left a trail of light in the night sky as it lifted off at 5:07 a.m. EST from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/z9NvqaTz73— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 21, 2021
Dragon docked to the ISS Harmony module at 3:41 a.m., almost 24-hours later, while ISS was traveling more than 260 miles over the South Pacific Ocean. SpaceX Crew-3 NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn monitored the autonomous docking operation. The CRS-24 Dragon will remain docked to the orbiting outpost for around a month before returning to Earth carrying supplies that are no longer needed at ISS, as well as the results of the science research conducted in orbit. CRS-24 Dragon delivered 6,500 pounds of cargo, including Christmas presents and a festive dinner for the seven-member Expedition 66 crew head of the upcoming holidays. “I won’t get in front of Santa Claus and tell you what’s going to be sent up, but we are going to have some gifts for the crew,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station program manager during a pre-launch press conference. Some gifts are expected to be presents and letters from their loved ones on Earth. “We’re also going to fly some special foods for Christmas dinner. So you can imagine turkey, green beans, we have some fish and some seafood that’s smoked. We also have everybody’s favorite, fruitcake,” he shared. The astronauts typically share a holiday dinner with the Russian cosmonauts and get to rest for the day.
Docking confirmed – Dragon has arrived at the @Space_Station!— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 22, 2021
Dragon also transported dozens of research experiments that the crew will conduct in microgravity. Less than 2-hours after Dragon docked to the Harmony module, Chari and NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron opened the hatch to extract critical cargo out of the Dragon spacecraft. Marshburn got living rodents out of the Dragon capsule and transferred them into new habitats at the Space Station. The rodents are tiny mice that will soon be observed for the Mouse Habitat Unit-7 musculoskeletal system study.
NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei and ESA (European Space Agency) Matthias Maurer also helped unload the cargo aboard CRS-24 Dragon this morning. They unpacked crew supplies, hardware, and spacewalk gear. Soon after unloading, Vande Hei set-up a new cancer study that was delivered by Dragon, the research could help improve drug delivery methods to treat the illness on Earth. One of the most interesting cargo CRS-24 Dragon delivered is a handheld gun that 3D prints custom human tissue cells over open wounds called ‘Bioprint First Aid’. The portable Bioprinter device was developed by the German Space Agency, it will be tested by ESA Astronaut Maurer who received specialized training. To use the device, the agency extracted the astronaut’s ‘own skin cells to create a tissue-forming patch to cover a wound in order to accelerate the healing process’. The Bioprint First Aid device could one day help astronauts on long-duration missions in the Moon and Mars. If successful, it could also help wound healing on Earth. You can learn of some of the cargo and science research delivered by SpaceX CRS-24 Dragon in the video linked below.
Dec. 21: SpaceX's Dragon #CRS24 spacecraft is set to launch, sending @ISS_Research and supplies to the @Space_Station, including a skin bioprinter and student projects from our SPOCS challenge.— NASA (@NASA) December 21, 2021
🚀 Liftoff is targeted for 5:07am ET (10:07 UTC). Watch: https://t.co/swhd0pikhi pic.twitter.com/1Z1iRAh8CN
Featured Image Source: ISS Expedition 66 NASA Astronaut Thomas Marshburn
Another view of the @Space_Station from 60 feet up during our spacewalk a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t bend over in my spacesuit to see this view but luckily captured almost the whole Space Station with a shot in the blind. pic.twitter.com/43Ql3UR8Jc— Thomas H. Marshburn (@AstroMarshburn) December 20, 2021