What's the Latest Development?

N.A.S.A. has turned to private industry in order to maintain America's presence on the International Space Station (I.S.S.). Recently awarding $269 million in contracts to four companies, the government space agency is seeking a national solution to ferrying astronauts to and from the I.S.S. Contracts were given to established companies and upstarts alike; Boeing received the most at $92.3 million while SpaceX came second with $75 million in new contracts. Because there are no immediate plans to replace the soon-to-be decommissioned space shuttles, American astronauts will hitch rides into orbit with the Russians until 2016.

What's the Big Idea?

On April 29, the final space shuttle mission is scheduled for liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As N.A.S.A. has no plans to replace the two currently functional shuttles, American astronauts will rely on the Russian space program to reach the I.S.S. until 2016. It is yet another sign of a transitional period for America as a nation. Once the undeniable world leader in space exploration, when the shuttles are permanently grounded, a lull will set in that will last at least five years. Some argue that that lull makes good economic sense and that the U.S. should continue to cooperate with the Russians in order to save money.