CAPE CANAVERAL- The six astronauts at the International Space Station got an early Easter treat this weekend with the arrival of a supply ship full of fresh food and experiments.
Instead of the usual bunny, Saturday’s delivery came via a swan — Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule, named after the swan constellation.
The cargo carrier rocketed away from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday night.
The newly arrived Cygnus holds nearly 8,000 pounds of groceries, equipment and research. Among the newfangled science: robotic grippers modeled after geckos’ feet and the ingredients for a large-scale, and even a controlled fire. A commercial-quality 3-D printer is packed inside as well; anyone will be able to order prints, for a price, from the Made In Space company. Virginia-based Orbital ATK hints Easter eggs may also be on board.
The controlled fire – confined to a box inside the Cygnus – won’t be lit until the capsule departs in May with a load of trash. NASA researchers want to see how fast the cotton-fiberglass fabric burns, in hopes of improving future spacecraft safety. Following the experiment, the capsule will burn up, for real, during re-entry.