A ‘Picture Perfect’ Launch

Looking like a bright star streaking up into a black sky, a rocket took off before dawn today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying an unmanned capsule filled with food, clothes, and other supplies for astronauts on the international space station.

But this robotic cargo ship doesn’t belong to NASA. Instead, it’s owned by a company called SpaceX, which made history by launching the first ever private spacecraft on a mission to the station.

SpaceX has a $1.6 billion cargo-delivery contract with NASA, which is turning routine flights to the station over to industry so that the veteran space agency can start to focus on more ambitious exploration efforts. (NPR)

Photo: Historic @SpaceX #DragonLaunch to ISS. @NASA on Twitpic

This is a landmark moment in space travel. With the entry of private firms into the public space game, NASA not only ensures continued support for ISS projects, but can turn their resources to missions above and beyond near-earth orbit. 

This is the kind of progress that lets NASA worry less about meeting a bottom line or boldly going where we’ve gone many times before, and instead lets them start thinking about what’s next.