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Always On: The future of space travel

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Always On: The future of space travel

4:20 /

Molly Wood visits Cape Canaveral, Fla., where SpaceX was gearing up for its first mission to the International Space Station. She witnesses her first rocket launch and looks at the future of space exploration.

-I am so lucky to be here. -Three, two, one and lift off. Lift off of the [unk] 9 rocket. Watch as dragon goes to International Space Station. -October 27th, 2012: SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches into orbit. -This is amazing. [unk] Oh my god. [unk] how my kids gets to fly to Mars on a private spacecraft. -Falcon now [unk] This is the point where mechanical stress on the rocket reaches its peak. -In case you're not familiar with SpaceX, it's the company founded by tech entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. His goal is to revolutionize space transportation with the ultimate plan, he says, of enabling people to live on other planets. -There are 7 billion people on earth now and it will be probably 8 billion by the mid point of the century. So, even if 1 in a million people decided to do that, that's still 8,000 people. -The Falcon 9 rocket was designed and built under a 1.6-billion-dollar contract with NASA. The rocket is 157 feet long and 12 feet in diameter. The capsule on top of the racket is named Dragon and it measures 4-1/2 feet tall. Falcon has 9 engines, which generate 855,000 pounds of thrust at sea level. It tops 1 million pounds of thrust as the rocket bursts out of the earth's atmosphere. The spacecraft can also carry up to 7,000 pounds of cargo. And here's another piece of trivia, the Falcon name is a homage to Hans Solo Millennium Falcon. Love it. When I visited Cape Canaveral, Florida, home to NASA's launch operations, SpaceX was gearing up for its launch to send their capsule for a historic first delivery. The Dragon capsule will ride into space on top of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. It will deliver a thousand pounds of cargo to the International Space Station including ice cream and more importantly it will return with cargo. That's something that previously could only be accomplished by a shuttle. -Three, two, one. -The launch pretty much went off without a hitch. -Falcon 9 is clear to tower. -1 of the 9 engines failed during blastoff, but it still arrived safely at the International Space Station to deliver its payload. -The SpaceX's launch tonight marks the official start of commercially resupplying missions by American companies operating out of U.S. space ports like the one right here in Florida. -Weeks later, the Dragon capsule returned to earth and splashed down off the coast of Baja, California. This mission marks a major shift in the way that we travel into space in the future from government funded travel to private enterprise. And SpaceX and other companies have no intention of stopping at just delivering cargo. Eventually, the company wants to send people into space with the same Dragon capsule. Their goal is manned test flights in 2015 and SpaceX is not alone is this endeavor. Billionaire Richard Branson has formed Virgin Galactic. He has designed Spaceship 2 and has plans to take space tourists into suborbital flight as early as next year. Spaceship 2 will launch via a larger aircraft instead of from the ground and passengers will be able to fly 60 miles into space and feel the sensation of weightlessness. So, while NASA and the Space Shuttle have been grounded, the future of space is now in the hands of private enterprise and it looks like these companies are off to a pretty solid start.
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