NASA Ponies Up Megabucks For Commercial Space Rides

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You’re in love, bored with five star eats, and filthy stinking rich. Why not grab your date and hop a space bus to the International Space Station?

Hold that thought, but NASA just made it a smidge less improbable, tossing some $269 million in funding to commercial companies like Boeing and SpaceX, all of them hoping to someday carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

According to NASA, each company gets “between $22 million and $92.3 million” of the pot “to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft.”

Boeing took home the lion’s share, with a cool $92.3 million, followed by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) with $75 million, Sierra Nevada Corp with $80 million, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ human spaceflight startup Blue Origin nabbing the $22 million remainder.

“We’re committed to safely transporting U.S. astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement. “These agreements are significant milestones in NASA’s plans to take advantage of American ingenuity to get to low-Earth orbit, so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration.”

You may have read about a sidewise push to rejuvenate NASA’s retiring Space Shuttle fleet. No word on where that stands, but it’s another commercial spaceflight contender.

In the meantime, the days of hopping a space bus to Mars, the Moon, or just into orbit may be decades away (or just for the superrich), but with a move toward commercialization of this magnitude, the ball’s clearly in motion.