Privatization and evolution of space travel

When SpaceX made a successful cargo mission to the International Space Station, it marked the first phase in what will be the norm for American space travel for the foreseeable future.

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured just prior to being released by the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. NASA

The United States flew its last official space shuttle mission in 2011, but this year Americans got to say goodbye to the spacecraft in the venerable program's fleet. Throughout the year, NASA delivered the remaining shuttles to final resting places around the country. People turned out in droves to catch a glimpse of the shuttles as they did flyovers en route to their final destinations.

But as the federal manned space program came to an end, the private sector stepped in to take over. In May, Space Exploration Technologies -- or SpaceX -- made a successful demonstration flight to the International Space Station and back. Though it had an imperfect launch , in October sent its Dragon capsule back up to the space station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. This time, it brought with it nearly a ton of supplies and equipment, then successfully returned to Earth a few weeks later carrying experiment samples, broken components, and other gear from the station. The mission marked the first phase in what will be the norm for American space travel for the foreseeable future.

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About the author

Jennifer Guevin is managing editor at CNET, overseeing the ever-helpful How To section, special packages, and front-page programming. As a writer, she gravitates toward science, quirky geek culture stories, robots, and food. In real life, she mostly just gravitates toward food.

 

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