Saturday, June 05, 2010
First of all, here's a video showing the launch in case you haven't seen it yet.
And now for what it means. The most important aspect of this successful flight is that it raises the probability that the US will be able to continue sending people to space even after the Shuttle retires, which is a big deal since otherwise they would need to rely on Russia to do so. There's nothing wrong with cooperation on this front, but losing the ability to send humans to space on its own would have been a big deal for the US which has never seen that happen since the space race began. For more info on this see this post from the Economist.
Politically this is also a small boon for Obama, who made the decision to rely more on private companies and personally visited the launch site as well. The plan to go to Mars in the mid-2030s is naturally still flawed, but all the other steps to take before that (investment in new technology, sending a manned mission to an asteroid) are good.
And for a list of reactions to the flight (from huge praise to super duper faint praise), see here.