Consensus Building Toward Relying on Private Sector for Human Spaceflight

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit
Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

NASA May Outsource Amid Budget Woes
Wall Street Journal

For the first time since the advent of manned space exploration, the U.S. appears ready to outsource to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit.

Proposals gaining momentum in Washington call for contractors to build and run competing systems under commercial contracts, according to federal officials, aerospace-industry officials and others familiar with the discussions.

While the Obama administration is still mulling options and hasn’t made any final decisions, such a move would represent a major policy shift away from decades of government-run rocket and astronaut-transportation programs such as the current space-shuttle fleet. By some estimates, the Administration’s current spending blueprint for manned space exploration over the next decade is between $30 billion and $50 billon less than federal officials first projected when President  George W. Bush unveiled a plan to return astronauts to the moon.

In the face of severe federal budget constraints and a burgeoning commercial-space industry eager to play a larger role in exploring the solar system and perhaps beyond, these people said, a consensus for the new approach seems to be building inside the White House as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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