Today, SpaceX made a giant leap for mankind.
Well, maybe more for venture capitalist-kind. But they also took a large step for humanity and history.
A little after noon PDT, their unmanned Dragon spacecraft splashed into the Pacific Ocean. This falling object is unique. She has just completed the first ever commercial spaceflight.
This was a proud initial journey into a whole new business field. The possibilities are nearly as limitless as the ever-expanding universe. Moon tours? A Zero-Gravity playground? That space Domino’s someone drew up a few years ago?
Maybe corporate America won’t make space as cheesy as Futurama would have us believe. Even still, the thought of taking a private sight-seeing mission out of this atmosphere is thrilling. And SpaceX just proved that it is at least possible.
If you have a few spare millions stowed in some offshore bank account, it might even be probable.
Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. The Dragon spacecraft, remember, was an unmanned cargo ship. It was on a three-week mission to the International Space Station to collect some things that NASA left up there after it recently closed down it’s space shuttle program.
Does NASA need to worry about competition from the private sector? Not for now. SpaceX worked very closely with the space program. NASA benefits from shelling out money for private companies to handle some of the work.
The Dragon, for example, carted over 1,600 pounds of stuff from the ISS, including blood samples from American astronauts.
This is far from the end of SpaceX’s relationship with NASA. The Dragon was on a mission entitled CRS-1. CRS-1 is merely one of twelve missions SpaceX is planning to bring more stuff back and forth to the ISS.
It is all part of NASA’s plan for the future of American space exploration, including the retirement of the beloved space shuttle program that has been in operation since the agency’s early days. Private companies will now take the reigns with providing spacecraft that transport cargo. They will also soon bus people to space.
Not billionaire playboys, but NASA trained and approved astronauts. For the moment, at least.
That will be the ultimate success for SpaceX, and it isn’t far from the horizon after today’s well-executed landing.
The cargo from the Dragon is now being removed and organized. Hot off her first victory, Dragon will soon be refurbished and repaired, if needed.
Then she’ll be shot back up in space, the next frontier for American capitalism.