Space Station crew savors "new car smell" of Dragon capsule

SpaceX's Dragon capsule revealed its secrets to the crew of the International Space Station earlier today, a cache of food, equipment and "new car smell" as astronauts opened the hatch for the first time. After successfully docking with the ISS yesterday – and setting a new record in the process, as the first private craft to link with the station – after a 3.5 day trip through space, Dragon's more than 1,000 pounds of cargo will be unloaded over the next four days, before the shelves are packed up again for the return trip.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit opened the hatch this morning, May 26, at 5:53 am EDT as the station flew 253 miles above Auckland, New Zealand. He and the rest of the ISS team wore protective masks and goggles, a standard precaution when any newly-arrived vehicle docks with the station, and Pettit and Station Commander Oleg Kononenko were first to enter Dragon.

Inside there's food, equipment, clothing and more, including scientific kit and parts for the ongoing repair cycle of the orbiting platform. The team will refill it before it detaches midway next week; before then, when the station atmosphere has successfully combined with that of Dragon, they'll be able to take off their goggles and masks.

"There was no sign of any kind of FOD [foreign object debris] floating around in the atmosphere inside," Pettit told Houston mission control after making his first inspection of Dragon. "It kind of reminds me of the cargo capability that I could put in the back of my pickup truck. And the smell inside smells like a brand new car."

Dragon is scheduled for splashdown several hundred miles west of California, on May 31. SpaceX will then prep for its next trip up to the ISS, as part of a twelve mission contract with NASA to ferry supplies now that the Space Shuttle has been mothballed.

SpaceX Dragon capsule hatch opening: