Three private companies – Boeing, SpaceX, and the Sierra Nevada Corporation – will share $1.1 billion from NASA to help restore the US human spaceflight program.
This is the third phase of NASA's efforts to get private space companies to take over the job of the now-retired space shuttle. The companies will share more than $1.1 billion. Two of the ships are capsules like in the Apollo era and the third is closer in design to the space shuttle.
Once the spaceships are built, NASA plans to hire the private companies to taxi astronauts into space within five years. Until they are ready, NASA is paying Russia about $63 million per astronaut to do the job.
In a statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the move "will help keep us on track to tend the outsourcing of human spaceflight."
NASA hopes that by having private firms ferry astronauts into low Earth orbit, it can focus on larger long-term goals, like sending crews to a nearby asteroid and eventually Mars. The private companies can also make money in tourism and other non-NASA business.