The world watched Crew Dragon dock on to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday in what marked a significant milestone in space travel; the inclusion of private enterprises as legitimate players in the industry. SpaceX, the company behind the launch had previously sent cargo rockets to the ISS, but this was the first time a manned mission was executed – to near perfection – by a private company.

SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk has never hidden the fact that the firm’s ultimate aim is to send a manned mission to Mars, and while this may indeed be the first step towards realising this dream, there is a very long way to go still.

Nevertheless, it is these lofty ambitions and the consistent need to innovate that makes the inclusion of the private sector into the space race all the more beneficial. SpaceX’s other plans, such as six astronaut “taxi” flights in August, commercial flights to the ISS and perhaps even the moon are much more realistic possibilities than Mars. This industry would of course, only cater to the ultra-rich, but would allow for space travel to become a profitable endeavour for the first time in human history.

Once that happens, new entrants will want access to the market, and research and development can lead to greater technological development for this industry and others. It must also be remembered that the development of technology for space has in the past, led to many valuable inventions and discoveries, many of which are used in several aspects of daily life.

As far as developing space tech is concerned, SpaceX has already taken the lead on this front; by relying on reusable launch rocket technology, the company can send missions to space at a fraction of the cost state-sponsored agencies could in the past. It is moments like this that stand out in history; their actual real-world significance might be minimal, but the ramifications they have for the future are immense. Hopefully, this mission will galvanise other companies to follow suit.