The U.S. Will Once Again Launch Humans into Space in 2017
Today, at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA made a "historic announcement about the future of human spaceflight." Starting in 2017, the U.S. will no longer rely on Russia for human spaceflight to the ISS, but will launch astronauts into space using commercial spacecrafts made by private companies. They will have contracts with both Boeing and SpaceX, who will each build a spacecraft to be tested for human spaceflight. "We are counting on them to deliver our most precious cargo," they said. This will mark the first time the U.S. has independently sent astronauts into Earth's orbit in more than 40 years.
Specifically, Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon will eventually serve as space taxis, shuttling astronauts from Earth to the ISS and back. NASA clarified that there is still "a lot more work to do," as each vehicle will need to be certified with a process that involves five certification milestones before taking manned missions to the ISS. However, they believe that this program will "stretch the boundaries of the possible" and yield several milestones in the effort to explore space, such as the first humans to grow their own food and eat it in space, the first humans to touch down on an asteroid and Mars.
In their announcement, they quoted President Obama in a recent release about the U.S. space program: "We will not only extend humanity's reach in space — we will strengthen America's leadership here on Earth."