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The space race between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and SpaceX's Elon Musk is just the beginning of an extremely exciting adventure for human exploration, retired NASA astronaut Eileen Collins said Tuesday.
"We are going to be exploring our universe beginning with these baby steps of exploring our solar system," Collins said in an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell. "
Earlier in the day, Bezos unveiled plans to build a rocket manufacturing plant and launch site in Florida, called Blue Origin, which will compete against fellow tech billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX.
Bezos' start-up intends to invest more than $200 million to build the rocket manufacturing facility next to NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Collins, who was the first female pilot and first female commander of a space shuttle, said the competition between the tech titans and other space companies such as Boeing is good. However, the rise in private companies doesn't mean NASA is taking a back seat, she pointed out.
NASA will continue to be the leader, contracting with companies in different ways and leaving them to handle suborbital missions, orbital flights to the space station and tourist flights, she said.
"That will then free up NASA to do the deep space missions: going back to the moon, going to Mars, going to the asteroids," Collins noted.
—Reuters contributed to this report.