The US space administration has awarded contracts worth up to US$6.8 billion to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station to Boeing and SpaceX, the Washington Post reported.
Speaking from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief Charles Bolden said relying on contractors to take astronauts to space would allow the agency “to focus on an even more ambitious mission — sending humans to Mars”.
The United States has been relying on Russia to transport astronauts to the space station since the retirement of its space shuttle three years ago.
Russians charge US$71 million per seat, and NASA has in a single year sent more than US$400 million to Russia for these taxi rides, according to the newspaper.
According to the schedule, NASA astronauts could be launched on US soil with American rockets by 2017.
Boeing’s contract is worth up to US$4.2 billion, while that of SpaceX is valued at US$2.6 billion. Although NASA officials did not say why Boeing received more, they indicated that SpaceX had proposed doing the work for less.
NASA hopes that investing government money into private enterprises will help boost the commercial space industry. In addition to NASA, foreign governments, scientists and the super rich would also be able to buy seats on the ships, the report said.
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