The successful splashdown Thursday of SpaceX's Dragon capsule, the world's first commercial space cargo ship, is drawing high praise from spaceflight experts and lawmakers alike.
The unmanned Dragon spacecraft cast off from the International Space Station early Thursday morning and survived a fiery re-entry through Earth's atmosphere to make an apparently flawless splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. The landing marked the end of the first private flight ever to the International Space Station.
SpaceX launched the Dragon capsule toward the space station on May 22 on a test flight to demonstrate the vehicle is ready to begin making supply runs to the orbiting lab for NASA. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract to provide 12 Dragon cargo missions for NASA now that the space agency's shuttle fleet is retired.
With Dragon back on Earth, and its mission an unqualified success, the comments are pouring in from SpaceX officials, NASA, members of Congress and commercial spaceflight supporters.
Here's a look at just some of the reactions to the Dragon spacecraft's successful mission:
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and founder
We are hoping to continue working with NASA and hopefully flying crew within three years. This was a crucial step and makes the chances of becoming a multiplanet species more likely.
There was reason to doubt that we would succeed because there wasn’t a precedent for what we achieved. I think those reasons no longer remain, having done what we have done, so I hope those doubts are put to rest.
Mike Suffredini, NASA program manager for International Space Station
As a country, we should be very proud. We took a capability that this agency has nurtured over many years, combined that with a different thought process in spacecraft design and created a team that worked very well. The SpaceX team learned a lot and so did our NASA engineers. [SpaceX Dragon's Space Station Arrival in Pictures]
Michael Lopez-Alegria, Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) president, former NASA astronaut, space station commander
This is an incredible achievement for SpaceX and NASA. Since the retirement of the shuttle there has been no ability to return a significant amount of cargo aboard any vehicle. Having the capability to ferry payloads to low Earth orbit is essential; having the ability to bring useful cargo such as scientific samples back to Earth will dramatically increase the research capacity of the ISS.
CSF commends SpaceX and NASA for the completion of the COTS demonstration, proving that NASA’s use of commercial providers to develop vehicles for the ISS has been a success. NASA and congress should build on this success by robustly funding a competitive commercial crew program that will reduce our dependence on aging Russian infrastructure, ensure the success of the Space Station and keep high-tech jobs here in America.
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee
I would like to again congratulate SpaceX on the completion of its first test mission to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). The NASA and SpaceX teams successfully accomplished a series of difficult maneuvers and docked with the ISS over Memorial Day weekend to deliver over 1,000 pounds of non-critical cargo.
This historic test mission is the first time a commercial company has attempted to deliver supplies to ISS, and the space community should be very pleased with the results. This was a complex mission and represents an important milestone for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program that will hopefully result in a reliable capability to deliver supplies to our space station."
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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), senior member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
This is a victory for SpaceX, NASA and America. Our national science enterprise will now be able to leverage the power of free markets, private enterprise and commercial solutions.
SpaceX’s success represents a bold step toward a future where the free market is unleashed to move humanity beyond the constraints of gravity away from government owned and operated vehicles. I look forward to these missions becoming more routine, and for our nation to move to the next step — leveraging the inherent innovation and competition of the commercial approach for crewed missions on the frontier of space.
Eric Anderson, Space Adventures CEO and chairman for Commercial Spaceflight Federation
The successful return of the Dragon capsule to Earth ends a historic mission for SpaceX, but opens a new chapter of 21st century access to space. The utilization of commercial services for cargo resupply to the International Space Station has now been validated. This success should be viewed as a stepping stone for the industry, and for NASA’s future plans to fly crew to and from the space station on commercial vehicles. It’s a seminal moment for the U.S. as a nation, and indeed for the world.
Artemis Westenberg, president of Explore Mars, non-profit supporting crewed mission to Mars
This is a turning point for the United States space program, but also for space exploration worldwide. SpaceX has demonstrated that commercial companies can accomplish routine transportation to and from low Earth orbit, which will allow NASA to focus its resources on the exploration of deep space destinations such as Mars. (SpaceX's achievements) will help to motivate young people around the country (around the world) to study math, science and engineering so they can be part of this great adventure.
Joe Webster, political director for Explore Mars
This mission, following two previous successful flights of the Falcon 9, demonstrates the wisdom of NASA providing seed money for both commercial cargo and commercial crew. While some have questioned the value of these investments, SpaceX has shown that the return to the American taxpayer is likely to be enormous. As a result, Congress will be under even more pressure to fully fund the administration’s FY 2013 request for the commercial crew program, of which SpaceX is one of the leading participants.
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