Astronaut Snaps Breathtaking Photo of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Near Space Station

NASA astronaut Anne McClain snapped this photo of SpaceX's Crew Dragon approaching the International Space Station on March 3, 2019, calling it  "a dawn of a new era in spaceflight." (Image credit: Anne McClain/NASA/Twitter)

A silhouette of SpaceX's Crew Dragon coasts over Earth's blue horizon in this breathtaking photo by NASA astronaut Anne McClain. 

"The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight," McClain tweeted along with this photo, shortly after the Crew Dragon docked with the International Space Station on Sunday (March 3). SpaceX's Crew Dragon is the first commercial-crew vehicle to ever dock with the space station, and it's the first to launch from U.S. soil since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011. 

Although the Crew Dragon flew without a crew this time (except for a "dummy" astronaut named Ripley and a Celestial Buddies Earth plushy), SpaceX plans to start launching humans in the Dragon as early as this summer — that is, if the capsule's landing goes according to plan on Friday (March 8). Another commercial crew vehicle, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, is also scheduled for a test flight to the space station next month. 

Related: SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-1 Test Flight in Pictures

In the photo, the cone-shaped space capsule appears as a silhouette as what appears to be a sunrise lights up the atmosphere with shades of blue, orange and red. However, it's possible that this photo was taken during a sunset. Because the International Space Station circles the planet about once every 90 minutes, the astronauts witness 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets a day, and the sun is either rising or setting every 45 minutes. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.