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Falcon 9 Rocket Takes Off

Falcon 9 Rocket Takes Off - The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared successfully into the sky from Cape Canaveral this morning, carrying a stubby spacecraft called Dragon. Three hours later, Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean -- the first privately-owned ship ever to return safely from earth orbit.

"It was just mind-blowingly awesome," said Elon Musk, the Internet entrepreneur who founded SpaceX with money he made from the sale of PayPal.

Amid the plaudits -- Bill Nye, the head of the Planetary Society, said, "Falcon 9 nailed it!" -- there was a humbling reality: SpaceX managed to replicate a feat NASA's Mercury program first accomplished back in 1961. But today's NASA, searching for a clear mission and worried about its budget in a tough economy, badly needs for companies like SpaceX to succeed.

Falcon 9 Rocket Takes Off

If everything goes well, cargo ships like the Dragon will take the place of NASA's own ships in ferrying supplies to and from the International Space Station. Private enterprise, it's been argued, can do the job more cheaply and efficiently than government, with its layers of bureaucracy.


"If we overrun this program, we have to come up with the money through investment to cover the cost, which is dramatically different from contracts where if the contractor overruns, taxpayers have to pay the overruns," said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.

Falcon 9 Rocket Takes Off

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