Three crew members of the International Space Station returned to Earth yesterday, touching down in the cold Central Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. The American, Japanese and Russian astronauts might once have been carried to space by N.A.S.A., but since retiring its shuttles, Russia remains as the only nation capable of transporting humans to and from Earth’s orbit. The U.S. is working to make another vehicle capable of human transport by 2017 but some say 2032 is a more likely date.
What’s the Big Idea?
The ability to transport humans to and from space is the gold standard among the international community and those who cannot must depend on the goodwill of others. While N.A.S.A. has a timeline of its own for developing such a new craft, it is hoping private enterprise can do it faster and cheaper. Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX are the four companies currently funded by N.A.S.A. to develop space travel hardware.