bridges, vol. 33, May 2012 / Letter from the Editor
This is an exciting week for US spaceflight!
Following close on the rather sobering news of NASA retiring their space shuttles for good, sending them on final missions to science and space museums all over the US instead of shooting for the moon, the first commercial spacecraft was successfully launched last Tuesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The company behind the launch of Dragon, as the cone-shaped space capsule is called, is the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or “SpaceX.” Founded in 2002 by billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX is aiming to become the world’s first private firm to perform space missions for NASA, now that its space shuttles have been retired.
What we are witnessing is nothing less than the dawn of a new era of commercial space flight. The Dragon cargo ship is scheduled to berth with the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow, Friday May 25th, if all currently performed tests continue as planned (so far, so good – except some minor glitches that were immediately fixed). For this test mission, only about a ton of low-priority cargo is on board Dragon, but if the mission goes successfully, SpaceX hopes to begin regularly scheduled cargo deliveries later this year under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA calling for at least 12 more cargo missions.
Some four decades after the US wrote history with the landing of the Eagle, it seems they are about to write another chapter in the history of space flight when Dragon docks with the ISS, proving to critics and the world at large that a commercial model for space flight does work.
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