Friday’s ISS docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule received a good bit of media attention, but likely not anything near what it deserved. Much of the public was at least peripherally aware that a private spacecraft (albeit heavily subsidized by NASA) had successfully launched and docked with the orbiting outpost, but aside from the delivery of needed supplies, most could probably not articulate the true significance of the mission.
Besides reducing our reliance on Russia for access to space, this mission hopefully represents the genesis of a vibrant space-based economy dominated by private enterprise.
And in my lifetime no less.
If that vision comes to pass, May 25, 2012 could become nearly as significant as July 20, 1969. Or not. Will the fledgling industry be crippled by excessive regulation? Will shortsighted policy decisions gut the exploration programs that are arguably a proper role for public-sector programs?
Combined with last month’s announcement by Planetary Resources, I’m hopeful. This despite the recent, foolish decision by the Obama Administration to abandon future robotic Mars missions.