Friday, June 4, 2010

SpaceX's New Privately-Funded Rocket Launches Successfully

There are few things I like more than space and astronomy. But there are few things I like less than government taking people's money and forcing them to pay for a hugely expensive space program. Which is why for ages I've hoped that the government could take a step back and let private companies handle space exploration. While yes, such an approach would mean things would be slow at first because the technology required to go to space is still not terribly refined, private companies could slash the cost of going into space by maximizing efficiency, and could further the research of cheaper ways of going into space.

Well, this little girl's dreams came true today, sort of. As detailed in this NYT article, this afternoon Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX for short, successfully launched its first rocket into space. And SpaceX, if all go well, stands to gain an important role in space exploration.

Within a few months, SpaceX plans to launch a second Falcon 9 to demonstrate to NASA its capabilities before it gets the go-ahead to take cargo and supplies to the International Space Station. That flight will include a full version of the Dragon capsule, which can hold cargo and astronauts; Friday’s maiden flight held a mock-up of the capsule, aiming it for a circular orbit 155 miles from Earth...Flights carrying cargo to the space station are scheduled to begin next year. SpaceX has said it can build a version for astronauts in three years once it has a contract.

In one of the precious few good decisions he's made since taking office, President Obama has decided to turn the launching of astronauts over to private companies rather than increase NASA's funding. My hopes are high, but we'll see how the whole situation unfolds over time.

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