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Progress MS-12 was the spacecraft used by Roscosmos to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) on July 31, 2019. Originally planned for a year earlier, the craft delivered 1164kg of dry cargo, 420kg of water, 51kg of oxygen, 850kg of propellant in the refuelling section and 880kg of propellant in the integrated propulsion system. After three hours and 18 minutes, a new record time, Progress successfully docked with the PIRS docking module in low-Earth orbit.
NASA live-streamed the whole thing online to more than 34,000 people, but there was one bit that stood out more than anything else to an eagle-eyed viewer.
Just as the craft approached the ISS, Mission Control said: “Crew reporting from three metres away from the station, standby for contact at capture.
“Heartbeat is confirmed, 15:29:20, copy all, contact made to our control (module).
“The crew confirmed contact and capture of the Progress vehicle to the International Space Station at 10:29am central time.”
At that exact moment, something flew past the Progress vehicle and appeared to be flashing as it did.
Mission Control did not appear to notice it, though.
They continued: “The station and Progress now flying 259 statute miles over Northwest China.
“Again, that contact and capture was made at 10:29, we have completed Progress docked to the PIRS compartment of the International Space Station.
“The crew have now work (to do) to get the hooks to drive the heartbeat, but after those hooks are driven we will sign-off and Progress will be officially docked to the International Space Station.