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A SpaceX broadcast with ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm shot towards the International Space Station on Sunday.
The delivery – which is due to arrive on Monday – is the company’s 23rd for NASA in just under a decade.
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A recycled Falcon rocket shot into the pre-dawn sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. After lifting the Dragon capsule, the first stage booster landed upright on SpaceX’s newest ocean platform called “A Shortfall of Gravitas”. SpaceX founder Elon Musk continued his tradition of naming the booster recovery ships in honor of the late science fiction writer Iain Banks and his Culture series.
The dragon carries more than 2,170 kilograms of supplies and experiments as well as fresh food like avocados, lemons and even ice cream for the seven astronauts of the space station.
The Girl Scouts send up ants, brine shrimp and plants as test subjects, while scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison fly up seeds of mouse-ear cress, a small flowering weed used in genetic research. Samples of concrete, solar cells and other materials are also exposed to weightlessness.
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The experimental robotic arm from a Japanese start-up will make its orbital debut attempting to screw things together and do other everyday tasks normally done by astronauts. The first tests will be carried out in the space station. Future models of Gitai Inc.’s robot will venture into the vacuum of space to practice satellite and other repair jobs, said Toyotaka Kozuki, chief technology officer.
As early as 2025, a squad of these weapons could help build lunar bases and mine the moon for valuable resources, he added.
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SpaceX had to leave some experiments behind due to delays due to COVID-19.
It was the second attempt to start; The attempt on Saturday was thwarted by stormy weather.
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NASA turned to SpaceX and other US companies to get cargo and crews to the space station when the space shuttle program ended in 2011.