The mission of the SpaceX Dragon met with success as it successfully undocked from the International Space Station and subsequently splashed down the in Pacific off the coast of Baja California, according to the Associated Press.
The success of the Dragon, which not only delivered a cargo of supplies to the ISS, but returned a cargo back to Earth, earned praise from space advocates and members of Congress, as well as renewed calls for full funding of the government subsidy program that has enabled the development of not only the Dragon, but other commercial space vehicles.
National Space Society calls for full funding of Commercial Crew program
The National Space Society, an advocacy group of space exploration, issued a press release praising the mission of the Dragon and calling for the United States Senate to fully fund the Commercial Crew subsidy program. The House has cut funding for that program by $300 million dollars. President Obama's request was for over $800 million for the coming fiscal year.
Space blogger touts Dragon's capabilities
Writing in Pajamas Media, Rand Simberg, a space blogger and advocate of the Commercial Crew subsidy program, noted that the Dragon is not only capable of taking cargo to the International Space Station, but of returning cargo from it as well. This is a capability that no other vehicle that is currently flying possesses. Simberg also declared that the flight of the Dragon proved that the "space flight gap" only lasted a year, even though crewed flights of vehicles such as the Dragon are not scheduled to occur until 2017. In the meantime, astronauts will still have to fly on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to venture to the ISS.
Members of Congress heap praise
Members of Congress, including many who have expressed skepticism of the Commercial Crew program, offered praise for the flight of the SpaceX Dragon, according to the Space Politics blog. Reps Sandy Adams and Bill Posey, Republicans of Florida, as well as Reps Ralph Hall and Pete Olson, Republicans of Texas, offered congratulations, some noting the role NASA played in the flight. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., a long time supporter of the Commercial Crew program, touted the mission as a step toward commercial operations in space.
The future of commercial spaceflight
According to the Associated Press article, the success of the Dragon, which included returning 1,400 pounds of cargo to Earth, points to a new era of commercial space flight. A rival company, Orbital Sciences, is due to launch its Cygnus vehicle later this year to the ISS. Regular cargo runs to the space station are scheduled. Beyond that, it is hoped that crewed versions of the Dragon and other vehicles will begin to fly later this decade. Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's commercial crew and cargo program, expressed the hope that there will be commercial participation in future voyages of exploration, to the moon, Mars, and other destinations.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.