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What others say: A quiet space mission may be a good thing

Orlando Sentinel

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm above earth at the International Space Station.

Associated Press

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The following editorial appeared recently in the Orlando Sentinel:

Amid a news cycle dominated by the presidential campaign, the recent successful end to the first official private cargo mission to the International Space Station went largely unheralded. And that's not such a bad sign.

SpaceX, the California-based rocket builder, launched a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral on Oct. 7 carrying more than 800 pounds of supplies for the space station. The capsule safely splashed down in the Pacific three weeks later, packed with almost twice as much Earth-bound stuff from the station.

Though the mission wasn't perfect — one of the rocket's engines shut down after launch, and it failed to deliver a private satellite to the proper orbit — it went well enough that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk were crowing afterward.

The positive results backed up the Obama administration's smart decision to privatize the job of carrying cargo — and in a few more years, astronauts — to low Earth orbit so that NASA can focus its limited resources on deep-space exploration.

SpaceX plans 11 more cargo missions to the station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. Those missions are set to launch from Cape Canaveral, a badly needed boost for the Space Coast after last year's end of the shuttle program. Continued success could pave the way for more Florida missions from SpaceX and other private rocketeers.

Critics called privatization in space too risky. Now it's heading toward routine. That's good for the space program, for Florida and for the nation.

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