The Free Market In Space Travel

A reader writes:

You guys missed one of the bigger pieces of news yesterday! This is a pretty big deal and touches on a lot of different questions around government spending and private enterprise – and of course space is pretty cool, too.

Dashiell Bennett has more on the story – the first privately built spacecraft to visit the International Space Station:

SpaceX, a private company founded by former PayPal CEO Elon Musk, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to become the future supplier of cargo to the [space station] and eventually (if all goes well) people. The space agency — which is still responsible for the launch and mission control — also provided about half of the company's seed money to help develop the Falcon rockets and the Dragon capsule that sat on top of it and is now in orbit. Since retiring the Space Shuttle program last year, the United States has no way to get astronauts and equipment into space and must rely on the Russian space program, who it must pay around $63 million per astronaut to get a ride to ISS.