SpaceX launched the first commercial space craft to the International Space Station early this morning. The launch was scheduled for three days ago, but it was stymied by mechanical problems. Today, though, everything went according to plan. You can see the launch in the photos above.
Now the company’s Dragon rocket needs to link up with the ISS (bringing much needed supplies) and then return to Earth to be recovered in the Pacific Ocean. If everything works right, NASA will have found a way to keep flights going to the space station within their drastically reduced budget. And SpaceX will become the government’s go-to space freight carrier.
All of which means that our era of space exploration is far from over, even with the demise of the space shuttle. We can keep astronauts in the ISS, learning more about the cosmos, for a long time. In fact, SpaceX is already talking about the next step: carrying astronauts instead of supplies.