The video: A private spacecraft has successfully orbited Earth for the first time, suggesting that commercial spaceflight, once a fantastic notion, is approaching reality. SpaceX, an American firm that hopes to market orbital flights, launched its unmanned Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday. (View video below.) The capsule made a quick orbit of earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean just over three hours later. Only six nations or government agencies have successfully recovered a spacecraft from low orbit: The U.S, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency. SpaceX is the first private company to achieve the feat.
The reaction: The "future of America's space program" has seemed doubtful recently, says James Heiser at The New American, given Obama's cuts to NASA's budget and the ending of the shuttle program. But a private company has proven the "Space Age is far from over." In a reversal of roles, says The Economist, it is the Democrats who have consistently pushed for private sector involvement in spaceflight, while the Republicans argued that "only the government [could] provide spaceflight reliably." Watch the Dragon launch: