SpaceX has launched the first non-governmental vehicle that will (hopefully!) dock at the International Space Station.
At a NASA press conference after the launch, Musk said he had been concerned about another valve problem surfacing. With the liftoff, "every bit of adrenaline in my body released," he said.
"It was tremendous elation," he said. "For us, it's like winning the Super Bowl."
The white two-stage rocket cleared its tower in a predawn liftoff. A video feed showed SpaceX employees clapping, cheering and hugging when the Dragon capsule separated from the rocket and went into orbit on schedule, 10 minutes into the flight.
"The significance of this day cannot be overstated," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a separate media briefing at Cape Canaveral after the launch.
"We're handing off to the private sector our transportation to the International Space Station so that NASA can focus on what we do best: Exploring even deeper into our solar system with missions to an asteroid and Mars on the horizon," he said.
How much more efficient is private enterprise than the government? Well, how much did it cost to fly the Space Shuttle?
Q. How much does it cost to launch a Space Shuttle?
A. The average cost to launch a Space Shuttle is about $450 million per mission.
And the private competition?
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. have been awarded almost $700 million in combined NASA contracts to develop the ability to deliver cargo to the space station, and another $3.5 billion for 20 resupply missions scheduled to begin this fall.
That's only $175 million per mission -- less than 40% of the cost. That doesn't even factor in the non-recurring costs. The Shuttle program's total cost was about $196 billion for 135 missions: $1.45 billion per mission. If you include the $700 million in development costs that SpaceX and OSC were awarded, their per mission cost to the taxpayers is $210 million.
This is amazing stuff. The next people on the moon will be either Chinese military officers or American private citizens.