MSI welcomes another piece of space travel history to its collection with the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft

After traveling to and from Earth’s orbit and beyond, the SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft has arrived at its new home at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The museum celebrated the arrival of Dragon 1 cargo spacecraft C113 with a welcome ceremony on Thursday. Visitors crowded around the museum’s front lawn to see the Dragon before it headed to the Henry Crown Space Center, where the permanent exhibit will open to the public in spring 2023. The museum also offered free entry for all guests to experience a series of space-themed programming throughout the day.

Launched in August 2017, this first-generation Dragon vehicle has flown to the International Space Station twice to transport spacewalk equipment, vehicle hardware, computer resources and other cargo.

Chevy Humphrey, MSI’s president and CEO, said the spacecraft allows the museum to share a “pivotal” piece of history in human space travel and innovation.

“I want to express my deep gratitude for this gift from SpaceX,” she told the crowd. “The spacecraft will undoubtedly spark the curiosity and creativity of future engineers, maker scientists and those who will create sustainable solutions to propel us forward.”

David Vitale, MSI board chairman, said SpaceX now joins the ranks of other companies who are helping the museum preserve the history of science and industry and educate future generations.

The Dragon will sit alongside a fleet of artifacts and interactives at the Henry Crown Space Center, which pays tribute to the “dreams and drama of space exploration.” Showcasing technology that has brought humans to the moon and beyond, the center displays the Apollo 8 module and the Aurora 7 capsule, which was part of the country’s first human spaceflight program.

“On the walls of our rotunda, you will find the words, ‘Science discerns the laws of nature, industry applies them to the needs of humankind,’” Vitale said. “At the museum, we know that together, they unlock human progress. We were excited to add the SpaceX Dragon as the next great example of that marriage because we know it will inspire our next generation of innovators.”

Chicago Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar called the spacecraft’s arrival a “historic day” for Chicago. He said MSI was the first museum he visited when he came to the city and part of the reason he decided to live on the South Side.

“MSI is truly at the forefront of providing access to transformative pieces of scientific history to help explain where we started and how we got to where we are today,” he said. “This Dragon spacecraft very much embodies an exciting future for MSI, for the South Side, for our city and, yes, for space exploration as a whole.”

He asked the children who gathered near the front of the stage if they wanted to go to Mars and space someday. The question was met with cheers.

After the final remarks, Humphrey returned to the stage to officially welcome the spacecraft.

“Now, for the moment you all have been waiting for, I invite you all to turn around and face Circle Drive as the Dragon Spacecraft pulls up from its long journey to space,” she said.

Children and other visitors clamored to the street to see the Dragon, which sat on a large flatbed truck.

But the ceremony attracted more than kids, who arrived by the busload from local schools. Kankakee resident Kerri Saikan rushed to the Metro in her work clothes with just 10 minutes to spare to make it to the ceremony. She said she has visited the museum with her family since she was a kid and wanted to share in the excitement of the newly arrived spacecraft.

“I’m 40 years old, and I still come on the free days,” she said. “I was really happy to see it.”

The Dragon also attracted visitors from other parts of the country. Bee Pay brought her 6-year-old and 2-year-old twin boys to see the Dragon during her visit to Chicago from South Florida. She said her kids were amazed how big it was up close, adding that she’ll have to do extra research on the Dragon to share with them when they return home.

“In Florida, we do have the shuttle going on, but we don’t really get to see it close up,” she said. “This museum is so beautiful and it’s free today. I thought, let’s get the experience for them, and they just lit up. The faces of my twin boys just lit up seeing the spacecraft.”

Looking forward to bringing MSI’s newest addition to global visitors of all ages, Humphrey said Chicago is the perfect place to host the spacecraft.

“We’re the city of innovation,” she said. “We’re the city of industry. What better place than to have it here?”