If a private rocket docks in space, can anyone hear the noise? That was the operative question as Dragon, the capsule manufactured by the company SpaceX, delivered a few odds and ends to the International Space Station and returned safely to the confines of earth late last week. Privately built and operated, it was the first of its kind. It will not be the last.
Rockets don’t capture America’s imagination the way they did during the Apollo era. But the concept of privately funded space travel has, understandably, raised a few eyebrows. In any other country, and in the minds of many Americans, such an achievement was unimaginable. Making widgets is one thing, this thinking goes, but only governments can do the big stuff. Roads, bridges, airports, and even spaceships are the province of the politician, the bureaucrat, and the taxman.