Yesterday SpaceX, which has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station via its Dragon vehicle, showed the first public glimpse of what could be its human-rated cousin, the Dragon V2 (Any allusions to the German V2 appear to be unintentional). Xeni Jardin over at BoingBoing has more photos and video of the reveal event.
While not ready for launch just yet, the larger Dragon V2 can carry seven astronauts, and could land on water or on land. It also has backup systems that would allow astronauts a margin of safety in the launch-to-orbit portion of the mission that was previously unavailable. While the reusable capabilities that SpaceX uses with its Dragon craft are still being tested, the combination of those rockets and the Dragon V2 would produce a craft that resembles an Apollo rocket, but with the reusable capabilities that the Space Shuttle system promised back when I was still in short pants.
You should be excited. Really you should. Given the continued pressures – political and financial – NASA has to contend with, a viable domestic rocket source that is in the private sector will allow the agency to do more. Perhaps not enough, but that is likely beyond SpaceX’s capabilities.