It’s somewhat amazing to me that we’ve witnessed the first private spacecraft to go into orbit, dock with an orbital facility, and return successfully to earth.
Sure, the US, Russia, and other national governments have managed this. They’ve been doing it for decades. And yes, NASA (and thus the US government) has provided around $500 million to make this a reality – but NASA didn’t design the rocket, or the capsule (even if many of its former engineers did). This is a completely new vehicle and propulsion system – designed from the ground up.
And SpaceX did it in 10 years. That’s astounding. From founding to full demonstration (minus human occupants), they did in a single decade what has taken countries like China many times longer than that to develop, and with a much better, more versatile end product.
Say what you will about Elon Musk, about the demise of the shuttle program – this is the future. I can think of no better use for NASA’s budget than seed funding and cargo contracts for an eccentric billionaire who wants to retire on Mars.