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.
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.
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. 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 Space.com 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.