- SpaceX has completed the first flight of a commercial spaceship designed to fly people.
- Called Crew Dragon, the vehicle landed in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, following a six-day mission in orbit.
- No people flew on board to the International Space Station. Instead, the experimental Demo-1 mission carried a crash-test dummy and a plush toy Earth doll.
- Space station crew members are smitten with the toy. They call it “Little Earth” or “Earthy” and have adopted it as an unofficial crew member.
- NASA astronaut Anne McClain is posting photos on Twitter that show “Earthy” learning the ropes of spaceflight.
SpaceX has a new all-star crew member, though it’s anything but human: It’s a $20 plush-toy planet that astronauts call “Little Earth” or “Earthy.”
No humans flew on the historic commercial mission, called Demo-1 — only a crash-test dummy named Ripley, 400 pounds of cargo, and the fuzzy toy Earth. However, NASA described the mission as “absolutely critical” in its effort to replace the space shuttle (which retired in July 2011).
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine even hailed the mission as “the dawn of a new era in American human spaceflight” after Crew Dragon came back to Earth on Friday. In the coming months, SpaceX and NASA will analyze data gathered during the flight to prepare Crew Dragon for its first human passengers: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
In the meantime, three Expedition 58 crew members living aboard the space station — NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko — have adopted “little Earthy” as an unofficial rookie in training.
“He’s going to welcome us aboard, probably, when we get there,” Behnken said Friday during a NASA TV broadcast. “I think Anne and David and Oleg have trained him up well. Hopefully he can walk us through the emergency brief and he’s a full-fledged station crew member by the time that we get there.”
Here’s what Earthy has been up to, and when it may come back.