Yesterday SpaceX performed a virtually flawless inaugural flight of its Dragon spacecraft from launch at Cape Canaveral to splashdown in the Pacific nearly three and a half hours later. The mission was widely billed as a major milestone not just for SpaceX and its COTS agreement with NASA, but for commercial spaceflight in general, an issue that proved contentious in Congress in the last year. Several members of Congress made public statements late yesterday congratulating SpaceX on their achievement.
“We’ve arrived at the dawn of new era of U.S. space exploration that should ensure America remains a leader in space exploration,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, in a statement. The release also modestly describes Nelson as the “leading congressional authority on the U.S. space program”.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), the ranking member of the full Commerce Committee, called the flight an “important milestone” in her statement. “Supporting the development of these commercial activities will allow NASA to focus its efforts on the development of a new launch system and crew exploration vehicle to move beyond low-Earth orbit, which the new [NASA authorization] law established as one of NASA’s highest priorities,” she said. “Much work remains, but this is an important achievement and I congratulate SpaceX on a successful mission.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), perhaps the biggest proponent of commercial spaceflight in the House, also congratulated SpaceX on the mission. “SpaceX has taken one more step into changing the paradigm of space flight,” he said. “By demonstrating that we can use commercial companies to meet national goals, the continued success of SpaceX will enable NASA to focus their efforts into the far frontiers of space.”
For the curious, no, the office of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has not issued a statement about the mission.