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NASA Chooses Boeing, SpaceX to Fly Astronauts

Astronaut Randy Bresnik prepares to enter Boeing CST-100 spacecraft for a fit check evaluation at the company's Houston Product Support Center. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 (NASA)
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Three years after the United States ended the space shuttle program, the American space agency today announced the return of “human space flight to U.S. soil.”

NASA has chosen two spaceships, the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Dragon version 2, to bring American astronauts to the International Space Station. The program will cost $6.8 billion.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden said “this wasn’t an easy choice.” He said the decision will “end our reliance on Russia” to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station.

The decision followed four years of work by Boeing, SpaceX and a smaller company called Sierra Nevada.

Boeing CST-100

The Boeing CST-100 is designed to transport up to seven passengers or a mixed load to the International Space Station. Boeing has built spaceships for NASA for more than 40 years. It was one of the main builders of the space station.

SpaceX Dragon V2

NASA has used the SpaceX Dragon spaceship since 2012 to carry supplies to the space station. It is the first private company to do so. But it has always said its goal is to transport humans into space.

SpaceX Spacecraft
SpaceX Spacecraft

Boeing and SpaceX will own and operate the spaceship. In the space agency’s words, “once development is complete, NASA plans to buy a service -- simply put, like getting a taxi ride to low-Earth orbit.”

The final space shuttle mission ended July 21, 2011. Shuttles had been used to carry astronauts and others from the United States and other countries into space for 30 years. After NASA stopped using the shuttles in 2011, it was forced to pay Russia to carry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The flight costs about $70 million for each American astronaut. At least four American astronauts fly to the space station every year.

NASA plans to stop using the Russian Soyuz spaceship in 2017. The agency hopes the new Boeing and SpaceX vehicle will transport humans to space by the end of that year.

NASA says it has been visiting low-Earth orbit since 1962 and it wants to give that work to private companies. NASA says that will permit it to get “the most research and experience out of America’s investment in the International Space Station.” And, NASA notes, it will also be able to spend its time on “building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions, including flights to Mars in the 2030s.” Those trips may also include landings on asteroids. NASA is reportedly planning to send a deep-space exploration spaceship on a test flight in December.

VOA’s Christopher Cruise wrote this story for Learning English. Material from NASA and the Associated Press was used in this report. Hai Do and Caty Weaver were the editors. Jim Tedder narrated it.


Words from This Story

astronaut – n. a person who travels in space

private – adj. of or about a person or group that is secret; opposite public

transport – v. to move goods or people from one place to another

research – n. a careful study to discover correct information

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