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SpaceX Picks Up Where NASA Left Off

A few minutes before dawn yesterday we crossed what could be a major space-related milestone.

An intriguing little startup firm called SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral, Fl., to dock its Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station.

Make no mistake about it - this could mark a turning point for the U.S.

NASA ended the shuttle program last year. That leaves the U.S. hitching rides to the Space Station from our "good friends" the Russians. That's not good for national security, much less for innovation and exploration.

We've already talked about the "New Space Race" - part of that being the asteroid mining initiative that private company Planetary Resources is embarking upon.

When it comes to space transportation, thankfully, SpaceX plans to pick up where cash-strapped NASA left off.

Saturday's launch could eventually have a value of at least $1.6 billion - that's the total price tag for a contract NASA gave to SpaceX for 12 Space Station flights.

But there's more to the story than that...

Commercializing Space Travel

I predict that in a few short years, commercial space travel will become routine.

Not only will we be mining all those near-space asteroids for vital resources, we will be able to visit Mars, and even send tourists out for close-up views of the planets.

That's why, even though Saturday was just a test run, there's a lot riding on it.

The company, crew, NASA, and investors all hope this new launch pulls it together for the firm and the budding commercial space sector.

CEO Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and plowed $100 million of his own money into it. What they're after - eventually - is the ability to offer space travel at approximate one-third of the cost per passenger that Russia can do it today, according to a recent Wired interview with another SpaceX co-founder.

If anyone can do it, it's Elon Musk.

Born in South Africa, he is a talented young entrepreneur with a knack for making money. (This is the man who was the inspiration for multi-billionaire industrialist Tony Stark in the film version of "Iron Man" - both for director Jon Favreau and for actor Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Stark.)

And he's part of the reason I believe in SpaceX, even if the mission tomorrow goes bust.

This is just not a man who likes to take "no" for an answer.

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