SpaceX launches ants, avocados and a robot to the space station

This long-exposure image shows the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during NASA’s refueling mission to the International Space Station from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, as seen from Merritt Island, Florida, on Sunday. (Malcolm Denmark, Florida today via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – A SpaceX cargo of ants, an avocado and a human-sized robotic arm was carried to the International Space Station on Sunday.

The delivery — scheduled to arrive on Monday — is the company’s 23rd for NASA in just under a decade.

A recycled Falcon rocket exploded in the pre-dawn sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. After lifting the Dragon capsule, the first stage of the rocket landed on SpaceX’s latest ocean platform, dubbed “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” SpaceX founder Elon Musk has continued his tradition of naming Savior booster ships in honor of late science fiction writer Ian Banks and his Culture series.

The Dragon is carrying more than 4,800 pounds (2,170 kilograms) of supplies and experiments, as well as fresh foods, including avocados, lemons, and even ice cream for the seven astronauts on the space station.

Girl Scouts send out ants, brine shrimp and plants as test subjects, while scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison fly the seeds of mouse watercress, a small flowering herb used in genetic research. Samples of concrete, solar cells and other materials will also be subject to weightlessness.

Meanwhile, a Japanese startup company’s experimental robotic arm will attempt to link objects together when they first appear in orbit and perform other normal tasks typically performed by astronauts. The first tests will be conducted inside the space station. Toyotaka Kozuki, chief technology officer, said that future robot models from Gitai Inc. You will venture into the void of space to do satellite repair and other work.

He added that as early as 2025, a combination of these weapons could help build bases on the Moon and mine the Moon for valuable resources.

SpaceX has had to abandon some trials due to delays caused by COVID-19.

It was the second launch attempt. Stormy weather frustrated Saturday’s test.

NASA turned to SpaceX and other US companies to deliver cargo and crews to the space station after the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

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