A new era in space exploration began early Tuesday as SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket at 3:44 a.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center.
The launch — the first by a private company — was the second try this week after a glitch in one motor halted Saturday’s launch one second before liftoff.
As the rocket headed for the International Space Station with SpaceX’s hopes to begin supplying the orbiting laboratory, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden saw the launch as the first step in bringing space jobs back to the United States.
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, Russia currently resupplies the space station.
“I want to congratulate SpaceX for its successful launch, and salute the NASA team that worked alongside them to make it happen,” Bolden said.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time. And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start.”
Under President Obama’s leadership, he said, “the nation is embarking upon an ambitious exploration program that will take us farther into space than we have ever traveled before, while helping create good-paying jobs right here in the United States of America.
“We’re handing off to the private sector our transportation to the International Space Station so that NASA can focus on what we do best — exploring even deeper into our solar system, with missions to an asteroid and Mars on the horizon.
The decision to end the shuttle program back in 2004 was a difficult one, he said. “But with the kind of hard work, determination and ingenuity for which NASA and this nation are known, we’re now on the brink of a new future.
“A future that stands on the shoulders of Mercury and Gemini; Apollo and Shuttle. A future that embraces the innovation the private sector brings to the table, and a future that opens up the skies to endless possibilities.