NASA: Private Companies Will Help With Mars Explorations
At the recent, first annual Space Commerce Conference and Exposition (SpaceCom Expo) in Houston, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that commercial companies' work will be needed to support science and astronauts in orbit near Earth and farther away, according to Space.com here.
Bolden said that a marketplace is needed in low-Earth orbit in which "NASA is not the only customer," as the article said. Companies' work could be applied in various ways, including possibly maintaining the U.S. side of the International Space Station, which is being used as a microgravity laboratory and test ground.
"Now that the doors have been kicked open, I'm looking forward to new ideas about what we do next and how we keep that market humming. Who has a plan for non-NASA astronauts to conduct low-Earth orbit ops? Bolden asked, according to the article.
Bolden also added that commercial companies and international partners may take a lead role in approaching the moon surface once again.
One reason for implementing more private help would be to free up NASA to work toward more ambitious goals, such as sending human astronauts to Mars. That said, some leaders are still in favor of keeping a human presence in the low-Earth orbit while still pursuing trips to the moon or Mars for humans.
Already, NASA has ordered a CST-100 space taxi from Boeing; and awarded a contract to SpaceX to work on the crew capsule for Dragon vehicle.
"If all goes well and we get full support from Congress, my hope is we will fly the first commercial crew capsules in late 2017, early 2018," Bolden said in the article. "For the first time in quite some time we will no longer be dependent on any other nation to get our crews into space, and for us in this day and age that is critically important."
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