Private space shuttle takes flight

Not to long ago, President Obama outlined his plan for the future of the shuttle program. Due to cost and budget concerns, the President believes that NASA should concentrate on space exploration and leave trips to the International Space Station (ISS) to private companies now that the current shuttle program is about to retire. The idea of relying on the private sector to replace the current shuttle has rubbed some people the wrong way.

Yesterday, a private company, SpaceX, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors, had a test flight of a potential substitute to the shuttle. This was fairly important to not only NASA, but also to the President since a failure would reflect badly on his judgment and prove his critics right in their claim that depending on the private sector for such a task and responsibility is too risky. However, the test flight of the Falcon 9 rocket was successful and managed to put the capsule into orbit.

Although this is not the last test and more work on this spacecraft needs to be done, it is definitely an important step to reaching the goal of having the Falcon 9 rocket eventually carry astronauts to the ISS. By doing this NASA and thus, the government, will save a lot of money because private companies can do this job in a much more cost effective manner. It will also free up resources for NASA to focus on reaching Mars and perhaps an asteroid.

Another type of private space travel is also being developed by Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic. This idea is very different and does not involve the government in any way. The idea with Virgin Galactic is to send regular people, albeit quite rich, to fly in this plane/spacecraft and allow them to experience space. It will not travel far away from earth but just high enough for them to feel zero gravity and see the earth from the windows.

These plans are very interesting and yesterday’s successful launch is a good step forward to having private businesses enter the space travel realm. This is something that no other country is doing and it is an advancement because it means that the society is knowledgeable enough to handle such complex tasks. In the space race that the U.S. has (or had, depending on how you view it) with Russia and other nations, privatizing parts of space exploration give them an advantage and puts them ahead for the time being. It also makes it appear and in fact, be, less threatening to competing nations, which is also a positive outcome.