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French, US astronauts complete space grab

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet  in space
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet in space ESA/NASA

US astronaut Shane Kimbrough said on Thursday that his French colleague Thomas Pesquet "did an awesome job" operating an 18-metre robotic arm to successfully grab an unmanned cargo ship containing food and supplies.

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An unmanned cargo ship packed with food and supplies for astronauts arrived safely on Thursday at the International Space Station, a day after SpaceX aborted the process due to a GPS problem.

This time, the Dragon cargo ship made a "perfect approach to the capture point," a Nasa commentator said.

The space station's 18-metre robotic arm, operated from inside the orbiting research lab by astronauts Thomas Pesquet of France and Shane Kimbrough of the United States, reached out and grabbed the Dragon at 1044 GMT.

"We had a great capture," Kimbrough said. "Thomas did an awesome job."

The gumdrop-shaped Dragon vessel is packed with more than 2,267 kilograms of food, gear and science experiments for the six astronauts living at the orbiting space station.

"Congratulations Dragon on a successful journey from Earth and welcome aboard," said Pesquet.

The cargo ship was officially berthed to the space station at 1312 GMT, and astronauts will begin unpacking it later on Thursday, SpaceX said on Twitter.

The cargo launched into space on Sunday aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking SpaceX's 10th resupply mission under a contract with NASA.

SpaceX is currently working on another version of the Dragon that aims to ferry people to space as early as 2018.

Since the US space shuttle program ended in 2011, the world's astronauts have paid Russia to ride to the space station aboard the Soyuz capsules. The price tag is currently about 80 million euros per seat.

Astronauts will be busy unloading goods again tomorrow, with a second shipment of supplies arriving on Friday morning aboard the Russian Progress cargo carrier at 0834 GMT.

- with AFP

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