NASA officially announced today that both SpaceX and Boeing will be partnering with the United States space agency in order to create a replacement for the space shuttle fleet that was mothballed in museums several years ago. The goal for this new space taxi is to take American astronauts to the International Space Station.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, the International Space Station recently found life in space when the Russian cosmonauts were cleaning the external surface of the ISS. The discovery has scientists speculating about how the creature got there in the first place. NASA is also choosing a location for the 2020 Mars rover program, which is intended to look for signs of life on the red planet.
NASA currently sends U.S. astronauts to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets at a cost of $70 million per flight per astronaut. This might sound expensive, but the average cost of each space shuttle flight hovered around $1 billion over the course of the entire program. Unfortunately, with the threats over the Ukraine war escalating, Russian officials once suggested NASA might try and deliver its astronauts to the ISS “with the help of a trampoline.”
The tensions with Russia greatly increased the impetus to create a true replacement to the NASA space shuttle program and earlier today the choice was made. SpaceX will continue development of the Dragon V2 capsule with a contract worth $2.6 billion. the SpaceX Dragon V2 spacecraft is being designed to shuttle up to seven astronauts up to the ISS and it’s hoped it can be put into use by 2017. This is actually quite an improvement over the Russian Soyuz capsules, which are limited to three astronauts per flight. The Dragon V2 even has a special escape pod mechanism that allows the capsule to detach from the main rocket in the event of an emergency.
According to NASA, Boeing will use the CST-100 capsule it has been developing with the help of a contract worth $4.2 billion. Boeing’s CST-100 spaceship would launch aboard Atlas V rockets, built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Unfortunately, Russia also threatened to cut off the supply of RD-180 rocket engines that are currently used in Atlas V rockets by the U.S. military to launch satellites into space. If this occurs, U.S. supplies of these rocket engines would run out within two years, although it’s not clear if Russia will actually follow through with this threat.
But NASA’s astronauts are not letting any potential political entanglements get them down. Astronaut Mike Fincke elaborated on this resolve.
“We should see a key when we look at these spacecraft, a key to the doorway of space that will be opened by more and more people. It’s going to let us have more people working on the station, conducting more scientific research than we’ve been able to do so far. I don’t mean one or two more observations a week, I mean the full-on studies we are counting on to fill in the gaps about long-duration spaceflight so we can survive the years-long trip to Mars and back. These spacecraft might seem pretty small to carry so many big dreams, but I think they’ll do alright.”
NASA believes both SpaceX and Boeing should be ready by 2017 to do at least one test flight to the International Space Station with a live NASA astronaut on board.