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SpaceX Explosion a Setback, But Ambitious Program Continues

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The news of an unmanned test rocket from private spaceflight company SpaceX exploding mid-flight Friday served as a reminder that the pursuit of extraterrestrial travel is not without risks. The destruction of the spacecraft, which the company said was deliberate after an "anomaly" was detected, involved a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R for short) rocket. It caused no injuries and only limited damage to the flight area, but it is arguably the program's highest-profile failure by far.

SpaceX, started by billionaire Elon Musk in 2002, is the most successful non-government space program out there: It was the first private company to launch a spacecraft to orbit and recover it, first to rendezvous with the International Space Station, and first to drop a satellite into geosynchronous orbit. The occasional failure comes with the spacecraft-testing territory, and it's amazing that SpaceX has come so far without a setback. Notably, the failure happened during an unmanned internal test, and no payload was lost.

Undaunted, Musk deadpanned in a tweet: "Rockets are tricky..."

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—Devin Coldewey