Elon Musk has made it to space.
In a way. The man who has been a driving force behind PayPal and Tesla Motors (TSLA) saw his Space X venture successfully get off the launch pad early Tuesday morning. At 3:44 a.m. ET, the Falcon 9 marked a milestone for private space endeavors when it lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and made way for the International Space Station. Musk of course isn't physically aboard, but his vision and capital made it happen.
According to an account on CNN.com, the vehicle is taking "1,300 pounds of food, clothing and scientific experiments on a demonstration mission to gauge [Space X's] ability to safely and efficiently deliver supplies to astronauts staffing the orbiting station."
The launch had been planned for May 19, but it was scrubbed because of worries about engine pressure being too high. After a valve replacement, engineers were ready to try again, and this time, Space X was successful.
Depending on where you stand, commercial activities in space are something great or something horrible, but either way, private enterprise appears determined to take capitalism off the planet. Just recently, the company Planetary Resources announced plans to travel to and mine asteroids for water and platinum-group metals. The Space Shuttle program has been wound down and Congress isn't exactly bending over backward these days to shower cash on NASA, so private funds are finding their way into the outer space game. We're certainly a long way from Mercury and Apollo.
In a statement for the press, John P. Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology, said: "Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the president's plan for maintaining America's leadership in space. This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA's resources to do what NASA does best -- tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit."
What's your take? Do you think private enterprise should be involved in space exploration, mining, science or other projects? Or should it be left to governments to fund and manage?