Patt Morrison for May 22, 2012

SpaceX’s successful launch of its Dragon capsule ignites debate over privatization of space operations

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket early May 22, 2

BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket early May 22, 2012 as it heads for space carrying the company's Dragon spacecraft from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station in a few days.

Until today, a private company has never sent a spacecraft to the international space station, but that all changed early this morning after the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) successfully launched its unmanned Dragon capsule on its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The mission is the first test of NASA’s plan to outsource space operations to privately funded companies now that its fleet of shuttles is retired. The Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX aims to prove that it can not only take on unmanned missions, but eventually facilitate transporting astronauts as well. This morning’s launch marks a turning point for privatized space missions and also for the growing aerospace industry in California, which is also home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA’s launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

WEIGH IN:

Will private companies like SpaceX be more efficient at managing space missions than NASA? Which industries, if any, should not be outsourced to private businesses? What might California gain from the possible increased privatization of space operations?

Guests:

Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR, a Mojave, California-based company that is focused on research, development, project management and production of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), rocket engines and rocket propulsion systems; member of the Augustine Committee formed by President Obama to study human spaceflight plans of the United States

Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA 46th), whose district includes the Pacific coastline of Orange County and Los Angeles from Huntington Beach to the Palos Verdes Peninsula


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