Fly me to the moon…

Okay, if not the moon, how about to the International Space Station?

That’s the formal request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is looking for a contractor to provide transportation of crew from the US to the International Space Station (ISS). Why? It’s a long story, and you can google for all the background you want, but the short version is that since NASA mothballed its own fleet of spacecraft the US has been dependent, in varying degrees, on help from Russia to get its astronauts to the station.

NASA provided seed money to three competitors several years ago, and this week announced the selection of two finalists that will share $6.8 billion in funding to finish development of their human spaceflight vehicles – Boeing received $4.2 billion for development of its CST-100 vehicle, while SpaceX (the private company headed by Elon Musk) received $2.6 billion to continue development of a crew version of its successful Dragon cargo vehicle.

Also this week, Reuters reported that the Boeing/Lockheed Martin-backed United Launch Alliance had formed a partnership with Seattle-based rocket company Blue Origin to develop a rocket engine to replace the Russian-made RD-180 it currently uses. Blue Origin was founded by amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos.

And just to keep this cargo related, here is a video of the first trip to the ISS by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. This was the first time a privately developed vehicle successfully attached to the Station.

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