Chased By A Dragon

I watched with great interest the SpaceX-NASA launch of two astronauts from Florida on Saturday 30 May 2020. Since I was about 10 yrs old, I have been fascinated with spaceflight. The launch Saturday was the first time since 2011 the U.S. has launched our astronauts into orbit. We’ve have contracted those efforts to Russia. The Space Shuttle was our previous launch vehicle.

Launch of the Dragon spacecraft was successful and on-time. Bob and Doug were on their way to the International Space Station for a docking one day later. Doug’s previous flight to ISS was on the last Shuttle mission in 2011. The ISS passed over Florida at the time of launch which placed both vehicles into similar orbits. That made the time much shorter for Dragon to catch ISS.

I received an email notice a few days earlier telling me the ISS was to pass directly over my location Saturday. Since it was the evening after the launch, there was a possibility I could also see the Dragon capsule with Bob and Doug pass over me. Skies were clear. I set up the iPad with the NightCap app set to record a long time exposure. Maybe it would record both light trails.

The Big Dipper was high in the sky. The ISS came over some trees shining bright with reflected sunlight. It passed over and disappeared. One minute later I saw a small dim speck of light following the same path. It was the Dragon chasing the ISS. I kept the camera exposure going with the hope it would record the trail of Dragon. Unfortunately, Dragon’s trail was perfectly lined up with ISS and embedded in the bright trail. But, I did see it clearly with my eyes.

Taken with iPad and NightCap | ISS mode | 363 sec

After ISS and Dragon passed over Iowa, they went over over the east coast. Nick Lamendola in Troy NY was prepared with a better camera, sharper optics, and a motorized mount to guide his system. His image below left no star trails. It recorded a series of short exposures as ISS passed, and then Dragon. The two spacecraft trails are clearly visible. Click to embiggen.

Taken by Nick Lamendola on May 30, 2020 @ Lima, NY

Docking took place successfully at 9:16 am CDT.

Their length of the stay has not been decided. Dragon can spend up to 114 days in space. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has said they may return to Earth in early August. When they do return, they will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Four large parachutes will slow their descent as with NASA’s Apollo capsules.


6 thoughts on “Chased By A Dragon

  1. Joan Frohne

    It boggles the mind that these amazing things can be done! The launch was beautiful and the docking was successful. It’s a shame their glory was ignored or overshadowed by all the violence going on in our cities.

  2. jim fetig

    This reminded me of the Apollo era when our cities were burning while astronauts flew to the moon. It was just as incongruous then as it is now.


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