Retired astronaut weighs in on successful SpaceX launch

HOUSTON – Elon Musk and SpaceX have done it again.

After a day of delays, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket took off from Cape Canaveral headed into orbit to launch a large satellite designed to relay television, internet and cellular signals to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

For space industry experts and enthusiasts alike, Thursday's successful takeoff was another step toward the goal of launching American space missions with American astronauts from America.

"Bringing it from American soil is the right thing to do because we have so much more control," retired astronaut Clayton Anderson said.

Anderson spent 30 years at NASA.

That includes two space shuttle missions to the International Space Station. Anderson said current and past NASA professionals are playing an important role at SpaceX as the public and private sectors of space travel inevitably end up overlapping.

"We have mission control people involved, we have flight directors and astronauts involved," Anderson said. "So the idea is we can't tell them how to do it, but we can kind of coach them, and nurture them, and make sure they're doing it the right way, in the safest way possible."

As the private side of space travel continues to expand, a big question is: What exactly would collaboration with NASA look like and could the two sectors team up to produce regular, successful missions like the one we saw Thursday?

"The more you do that and the more you repeat that function, the better off you're gonna be," Anderson said. "And the quicker you're gonna get to this multiple launch, frequency of launch and the things we need to keep it going."

Anderson said although NASA's budget has been stripped drastically in recent years, in his view, space exploration is an investment by taxpayers that produces returns for citizens across the entire planet.

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