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It's time for NASA to hail a space taxi, says panel

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Business Wire

(Read caption) A Falcon 1 rocket that lifted off from Omelek Island in the South Pacific on Sept. 28 became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to orbit Earth.

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NASA spends too much money ferrying astronauts to and from space – it's time for the agency to hand off shuttle trips to private firms. That's one of the opinions of President Obama's Human Space Flight Review panel.

Human space missions currently burn through half of NASA's annual budget – some $18 billion. Better to outsource such work to companies and allow NASA to focus on grander goals, such as reaching deeper into outer space, said one of the panel's members.

"My god, great NASA has been to the moon," Bohdan Bejmuk, a former Boeing executive, told the panel today. "Let's turn [shuttle flights] over to newcomers.... I think you will find out there are a lot of people who will rise and compete. Some of them will fail, some of them will succeed, but you will have essentially created a new industry."

Reuters reports that NASA has already given seed funding to SpaceX, a private group aiming to make space flights more affordable. The company was the first to privately develop a liquid-fuel rocket that orbited the Earth. Its founder, Elon Musk, has tested several rockets and would like to eventually send humans to Mars.

NASA plans to debut its Orion spacecraft in 2015. But Obama called together this panel to review if the current schedule still made sense. Its official report will come out on Aug. 31.

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