Take two! On Tuesday morning SpaceX will make its second attempt at launching a spacecraft destined for the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft was supposed to launch over the weekend, but SpaceX aborted the mission at the very last second because of a technical glitch, which has since been fixed.
This is a step in the right direction to getting space travel off the taxpayer's dole, but we have a long way to go. As I commented before on PolicyMic, public-private partnerships open up an opportunity for cronyism; the government may award benefits to their friends and pass risk onto taxpayers. The federal government has promised to give over $2 billion to help SpaceX carry cargo to the International Space Station over the next several years — who knows if this money is being spent wisely.
American taxpayers should hope that this mission goes off with a bang. I hope that it does. It shows that government does not have to be the sole provider of space travel; it shows that the private sector can step up to the plate. There is a huge profit incentive with space flight, and investors and private companies will likely rush in as soon as the government lets go of its monopoly and gets out of the way.
If all goes well with SpaceX, then perhaps more commercial U.S. spacecraft will be able to enter the market for space travel. It may free up resources for bigger projects, such as missions to Mars. It may open up space to tourism. It may do a number of things — we don't know what we don't know. It's good that the U.S. is giving private space travel a fighting chance.