NASA announced that its team of astronauts is preparing for a flight on a commercial spaceship.
According to NASA's official website, the Commercial Crew Program is a partnership created between the public and private space sectors. The partnership has the purpose to develop and fly human space transportation systems.
The last NASA astronauts flew to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral, Florida, five years ago. Now a new group is preparing for a flight, but this time it will be on a commercial spacecraft.
According to the website phys.org, on Tuesday, April 26, veteran astronauts Sunita Williams and Eric Boe used touch-screen simulators during a training session near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. They were practicing docking procedures of the Boeing Co.'s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the space station.
The simulator is called the Crew Part-Task Trainer. It was designed to help prepare astronauts and flight controllers for various flight conditions and missions, including docking with the space station. William said that this is the next chapter for the American space program because it is planning for the next generations' future.
Since Atlantis' accident on the final space shuttle mission in 2011, the United States has not seen a manned launch. The American space agency currently is paying Russia to ferry astronauts to the space station and hiring out its supply runs.
NASA will focus on getting astronauts to Mars and will continue outsourcing other space tasks. NASA has contracted with Space X and Boeing to transport astronauts to the space station. The Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft are developed for future longer journeys.
According to NASA, a ride on an American-operated commercial spacecraft will cost around $58 million. This is cheaper than the $76 million cost of a ride with Russia's spacecrafts.
Chris Ferguson, director of crew and mission operations for Boeing's commercial crew program and deputy program manager, declared that low-Earth orbit missions will be serviced in the near future by American commercial space companies in order to enable NASA to perform its Mars exploration mission.