By Gautham Nagesh - 12/10/10 03:44 PM EST
Hutchison's statement references the NASA reauthorization passed in September that largely eliminated the nation's human spaceflight program in the near term in favor of the Obama administration's plan to boost funding to the commercial space industry. Critics, including Hutchison, fought back against the plan, arguing it would leave the U.S. reliant on nations such as Russia to ferry cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.
"Falcon 9, Dragon and similar commercial rockets and spacecraft will open up commercial spaceflight in new ways, and make NASA's Space Station program far stronger," said Dr. Alan Stern, former NASA associate administrator for science and now associate vice president at the Southwest Research Institute. "They'll also someday hopefully reduce or eliminate the need to depend on Russian launchers to get NASA astronauts to and from the Station, and that's extremely important."
Wednesday's flight was the first under the administration's program to develop a commercial capacity for those trips. Once the space shuttle program is retired next year after two final missions, SpaceX will fly at least 12 missions to the International Space Station as part of a Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.