Aside: finance is supposed to not have that latter attitude, especially when dealing with other peoples' money. Yet, they very much did (we have not learned the lessons).
Anyway, SpaceX was successful in their first attempt which is remarkable and very much interesting to our discussions (so expect more on this). For this shot, there wasn't really a 'limb' per se, at least, not one as large as one might think. They had accomplished several test shots with the rocket and module. Also, a whole lot of thinking (and coordinated work) went into the attempt. The payload could have been lost without much sacrifice. Then, NASA made sure that they could approach the ISS in a controlled manner. Too, the final approach was to the point of being within grasp of the robot arm. Making an approach, under remote control, would have been problematic (we'll address these types of things under 7oops7). As well, the environment on the module was tested on earth, yet those boarding wore oxygen masks.
I have to admit; I wasn't paying attention to the SpaceX activity. I will henceforth. The last time I paid a little attention to NASA was last year when the shuttle program was stopped. Then, there was a lot of discussion about what was next, some of which I participated in having an interest in design and test.
That the future is being defined by private interests, with NASA's money in part, will be something to look at closely. Of course, a lot is being written about this stuff, from all sides. Yet, the theme is applicable to all of the blogs related to this one (7oops7 and Fedaerated).
In short, we'll look at differences between government (the common weal) and business (private ownership and profit) as they pertain to program decisions. SpaceX plans to have people on board within the next few years. One thing about NASA is that the engineering was very conservative (for one thing, a relaxation in a decision process along all types of axis would not be done). Also, ever seen by-gosh and by-golly instances, generally?
SpaceX, on a quick review, seems to have things in hand. We can congratulate them on their success in this case and then look to their future efforts. Of course, they are one of many companies who will be attracting attention. New world, indeed.
Government might be the big mama and worry overly about safety and a bunch of other things. We, as a society, usually don't put people into dire straits (wait! is that so?). Naturally, risk is always there; we cannot cut things to zero for anything complicated. Yet, there is the notion of cowboy that some engineers like to cast about (general comment, not particular to any one company) which likes to bask in the glory of risky behavior (and its rewards). Look. Is not that what the jerks on the Street argue all the time? No risk, no gain? Anyway, another thing that companies do is cut (ah, in many cases, to cut to the quick and to the point of in-effectiveness -- wait, it's inherent, anyway, that we'll have to work to be effective).
Sometimes, it comes down to the three bear story: just right for the situation. However, we do not have 20-20 vision looking forward, despite the fact that a lot of what we see is a re-play (to be explained, in due time). In fact, we do not have 20-20 in reverse, either.
The beauty offered by SpaceX's effort is that it deals with engineering. Nice (the original focus of 7oops7). Too, decisions related to business are going to come up again and again. Great (that to which 7oops7 morphed).
06/16/2012 -- The landing culminated a voyage that went without any big hiccups. Can't say beginner's luck as much thought and preparation went into the event. Yet, it was a first attempt (test, if you would). Modelling, by itself, is not sufficient to cover the bases. How much of a base needs to be covered is a thing to determine; it'll be larger when people are aboard. The thing was not pure private money, as NASA is bellying up. Now, let's consider whether a private company (other than non-profit) can carry out a mission for a long period of time without penny-pinching, or extorting, in order to fill the pockets of those who claim to be 'capitalists' (and so, on top of the evolutionary heap -- give me a break) needing their payback. Ah, so much to consider here. Again, congratulations to the teams involved for a job well done.