For the first time in American history, commercial spaceflight companies will send astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX and Boeing have been awarded NASA contracts to pursue the technology necessary for sustaining human life in space. Pending certification by NASA, American astronauts will again travel to and from the space station via commercial American rockets, which hasn't been possible since the federal shuttle program shut down in 2011.
Over the past few years, NASA has had to pay exorbitant prices to seat their astronauts on Russian rockets. The SpaceX and Boeing contracts will allow the U.S. to end its sole reliance on Russia by 2017, according to a NASA news release. Tasking commercial companies with sending astronauts to the International Space Station will hopefully free up NASA to focus on outer space missions, such as eventually landing people on Mars.
Boeing received a fixed-price contract of $4.2 billion and SpaceX was awarded $2.6 billion. Each company will have to test at least one crewed flight comprised of their own people plus one NASA astronaut to oversee the launch.
The folks at SpaceX and Boeing are going to have a hell of a time drawing straws to go to space. On the one hand, who wouldn't want float around and nibble on water droplets suspended in zero gravity? On the other, a SpaceX rocket exploded in McGregor, Texas, not too long ago during a test flight. Hopefully they get that sorted out before they try to fly people anywhere.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.