Oct 1, 2010
Science Scene - Space, the next Frontier :o)
Boeing and Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace won an $18 million contract from Boeing earlier this year for development and testing of a space capsule capable of carrying astronauts to the space station and back. Boeing's planned capsule would seat up to seven passengers, and since space station crew rotation missions generally require four NASA astronauts, three seats would be available for commercial sale.
Boeing stopped short of naming a price, but it did indicate that flights could begin as soon as 2015 and that it's already prepared to speak to interested customers. However, Boeing and Space Adventures (the company that will handle the bookings) did say prices would be competitive with previous Soyuz flights, which most recently charged $40 million for an eight-day round-trip to the ISS.
In a larger context, the blurring of the line between NASA and its commercial counterparts could signal an embracing of the Obama administration's vision for future American spaceflight, a vision that calls for increased reliance on commercial ventures for orbital trips to space and a shifting of NASA's focus to deep space exploration. Some members of Congress, specifically those on the House Science and Technology Committee, feel that such a shift strips NASA and America of their space dominance.