Cargo resupply is about to make the history books. On Oct. 7, the Dragon spacecraft of SpaceX, a private company, will be launched from NASA's Cape Canaveral complex. The mission will give new meaning and excitement to the task of hauling cargo.
The unmanned private delivery will carry about 1,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station. And with that delivery will begin what should be a long, exciting and productive relationship between space exploration and the U.S. private sector.
As the economy recovers from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, NASA's budget and plans have been squeezed. The kind of national mobilization that followed in the wake of John F. Kennedy's promise to send a man to the moon within a decade is a distant memory for NASA and its supporters.
With Congress wrestling with a $16 trillion national debt, it's unlikely that the near future holds any major increases in federal funding for manned space exploration.
The end of the Space Shuttle program was a blow to NASA and the Space Coast. President Barack Obama canceled a replacement program for the manned space flight program and is now directing NASA to pursue a different plan for manned space flight.
For now, U.S. taxpayers reimburse the Russians about $63 million for each U.S. astronaut who tags along to the space station. This is a sad situation for the nation that sent men to the moon. The United States needs to get its manned space program up and running.
Fortunately, far-sighted entrepreneurs are giving the U.S. space program a needed boost.