You probably heard about the historic launch of the SpaceX rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, earlier this week. The rocket is carrying a supply capsule -- called Dragon -- to the International Space Station. Inside the capsule is twelve hundred pounds of provisions, including 162 meals, clothing for the crew on the ISS and a supply of fresh batteries -- among other things. The Dragon is expected to rendezvous with the ISS Thursday.
The mission is historic because it represents a new approach by NASA: paying a private firm to take care of routine supply flights to outer space. NASA officials say that over the long run, this approach will save the space agency a lot of money, and will allow it to focus resources on exploring outer space, specifically a mission to Mars. If the Dragon mission goes well, NASA will pay the Space Exploration Corporation (a.k.a. SpaceX) $1.6 billion for 12 future supply missions.
Like the ISS, the Dragon will be viewable in the sky over West Michigan for the next several days -- cloud cover permitting, of course. But if you want to see the Dragon moving across the sky, you'll have to be up very early, or stay up very late, depending on what you think of 4 a.m. That's when the supply ship will be visible in our sky. Follow this link for a schedule of when the Dragon, the ISS, and other notable spacecraft currently orbiting our planet can be seen: http://www.spaceweather.com/flybys/flybys.php?zip=49009 Happy viewing!