NASA announces Boeing and SpaceX will help return "human spaceflight launches to U.S."


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other senior officials gathered today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to announce that NASA will resume human space flight in the United States– Boeing and SpaceX will be the commercial partners to help transport astronauts to the International Space Station, and they will launch from Cape Canaveral.

The total contracts are valued at $6.8 billion: Boeing gets $4.2 Billion, SpaceX 2.6 billion. Crew will fly on Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon.

Liveblog below.

Robert D. Cabana, astronaut and director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, opened the announcement by saying, "We're transforming America's premier launch site into a spaceport like no other."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, praising and quoting the support of President Obama: "The greatest nation on earth should not be dependent on any other nation to get to space." We will end our reliance on Russia by 2017, and embark on a mission to send humans to Mars.

1:07pm: Bolden reveals that NASA will contract with Boeing and SpaceX, in a deal involving $6.8 billion.

"This promises to give more people around the world the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of space flight. "

Bolden: "Today we're one giant leap closer to launching our astronauts from the U.S. on American spacecraft."

Bolden: "I cannot overemphasize this: For the first time in over 40 years, this nation is going to launch a vehicle intended to carry humans into low earth orbit. This is possible because of the hard work of hundreds of people dedicated to America's spirit of exploration and innovation."

Bolden: "As a former ISS commander, I know the goal of every mission is to do something different than what has gone before. Turning low-Earth orbit transportation to industry allows NASA to focus on a more ambitious journey to Mars."

Full transcript of Bolden's remarks here.

Here's the teaser video that was released ahead of the announcement.

Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, NASA had relied on Russia's space program to transport American astronauts to and from the ISS, but that partnership is costly–$70 million per seat!–and now more than ever, politically delicate. Earlier this year, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that in response to US sanctions, NASA might want to try using a trampoline to get astronauts to the ISS.

NBC's Alan Boyle on the announcement:

NASA is going back to the future with $6.8 billion in backing for Apollo-style spaceships designed by Boeing and SpaceX. Both companies have been given the go-ahead to build, test and fly their gumdrop-shaped "space taxis," with the aim of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station starting in 2017. NASA officials said Tuesday that Boeing will get most of the funds for its CST-100 capsule, $4.2 billion, but SpaceX wasn't left out in the cold: Its crew-capable Dragon capsule also won $2.6 billion from the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program, known as CCtCap for short.

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