WASHINGTON - SpaceX's Dragon cargo vessel smells like a new car, said astronauts at the International Space Station after opening the hatches on Saturday following the spacecraft's landmark mission to the orbiting lab.
The California-based SpaceX on Friday became the first commercial outfit to send its own unmanned cargo capsule to the ISS, heralding the start of a new era for private spaceflight after the end of the 30-year US shuttle program.
The Dragon capsule delivered about a half ton of supplies and science experiments for the ISS, and aims to return a slightly larger load of gear to Earth on May 31.
Shortly after the hatches between the ISS's Harmony node and the Dragon spacecraft were opened at 5.53pm, astronauts ventured in for the first time.
'Like the smell of a brand new car,' remarked US astronaut Don Pettit, who on Friday was the one who reached out with the station's robotic arm and snared the Dragon as it approached the research outpost.
'Dragon's interior looked good,' SpaceX said in a statement.
'The ship is in good shape,' said a Nasa commentator on the US space agency's television channel.
Now that the doors between the two spacecraft are open, the crew has begun four days of work to unload and restock the world's first commercial resupply vessel with gear to return to Earth.