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SpaceX Cargo Ship Delivers Easter Goodies to Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies.

The shipment arrived Sunday morning via a Dragon instead of a bunny.

"Gentlemen, the Easter Dragon is knocking at the door," NASA's Mission Control said as the capsule was bolted into place.

The commercial SpaceX cargo ship, which is called the Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata snared the capsule with the station's robotic arm 260 miles above Egypt. Then the Dragon was pulled in and secured to one of the station's docking ports.

More than 2 tons of food, spacewalking gear and experiments fill the Dragon, including mating fruit flies, a little veggie hothouse and legs for the station's resident robot. NASA also packed family care packages for the six spacemen.

On Wednesday, the stakes will be even higher when the two Americans on board conduct a spacewalk to replace a dead computer. NASA wants a reliable backup in place as soon as possible, even though the primary computer is working fine. The backup failed April 11.

Image: SpaceX Dragon
After it was snared by the robotic arm, the Dragon spacecraft was pulled in and attached to a docking port on the International Space Station. NASA TV

The Dragon capsule will remain attached until mid-May. It will be filled with science samples — including the flies — for return to Earth.

In the wake of the space shuttle fleet's 2011 retirement, NASA is paying California-based SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. a total of $3.5 billion to resupply the orbiting lab. This was the fourth station delivery for SpaceX. Russian, Japanese and European spacecraft also make deliveries.

— The Associated Press