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NASA officially announced today that private companies Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Boeing aerospace will be the lucky pioneers who will be bringing human space travel back to the United States and into the private sector.
The announcement was made late Tuesday afternoon by a panel of NASA officials, experts, and private sector representatives, including NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, Commercial Crew program managerKathryn Lueders, and astronaut Michael Fink.
Bolden in particular was grinning like a toddler on his birthday as he announced that human spaceflight was once again returning to US soil, and being placed in the hands of US companies.
"I’m giddy today," he admitted to the press. "I couldn’t be happier."
According to Bolden, this major decision was one of the hardest the agency has ever had to make, but it was more of a question of who would be getting the contracts, not if they were going to be awarded at all.
Since NASA retired its costly space shuttle program in 2011, US astronauts have been bumming rides to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which are limited to bringing only three crew members at a time. Not only did this limit what kind of research could be conducted at the orbital lab, but it also was costing the agency $70 million a seat - a stunningly hefty cab fare.
This arrangement has been threatened, however, with increasing tension between the US and Russia following the Russian occupation of Ukraine, and the US had turned to its private sector for new options.
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