The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on a successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and first docking of their Dragon space capsule with the International Space Station (ISS). “SpaceX has achieved a milestone in commercial space development by being the first private company to make it to the International Space Station,” said Paul E. Damphousse, Executive Director of the National Space Society. “NASA and the commercial space team is joining together both symbolically and physically for this historic event. This marks the very first use of a privately operated rocket system to deliver cargo to the ISS, ushering in a new era of commercial space enterprise. Their successful flight is a testament to SpaceX’s commitment to making space travel missions much less expensive and much more routine.”

At 3:44 am Tuesday, May 22, 2002, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The National Space Society cheered the launch as Falcon carried Dragon on its way to the ISS, further opening the doors to making commercial space flight into low Earth orbit commonplace.

“On Friday, May 25, the National Space Society, along with a number of commercial space companies were cheering on the progress of the Dragon spacecraft real-time while at the Society’s 2012 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) being held in Washington D.C. May 24-28,” said Damphousse. “After a series of systems tests and a space station flyby, conference attendees watched as the Dragon spacecraft achieved rendezvous and berth with the ISS on Friday, May 25.”

The National Space Society is proud to have a very special payload of our own aboard this historic mission. Nine years ago Chris Pancratz, former Chairman of the Executive Committee, passed away. The NSS Board of Directors wished to honor him by purchasing a memorial spaceflight from the Celestis Corporation. A tiny portion of Chris, along with Star Trek actor James Doohan (Scotty) and Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, reached space at long last on this flight of Falcon 9. The NSS leadership wishes him well and is delighted that Chris had the chance to participate in opening the space frontier…both as a leader of NSS, and as a flight participant today.

Pancratz wrote: “It has always been my dream to travel into space. Some years ago, I decided I could not just sit and hope. If I were to have my chance I needed to do whatever I could to help make my dream happen.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was the Keynote speaker for the ISDC Opening Plenary Session. He spoke about the successful capture of Dragon, which took place during his speech.

In addition, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is the Keynote speaker for NSS’s Annual Awards Dinner on Sunday evening, May 27th. The award winners are carrying forward the legacy of Chris Pancratz.

The months and years to come will see the burgeoning use of multiple families of new launch vehicles — the Falcon 9 among them — for cargo transportation and, in time, crew transportation. The ambitions of SpaceX extend beyond low-Earth orbit to Mars, and going beyond low Earth orbit is integral to expanding our economic sphere — indeed our civilization — into the solar system.

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