Public access to multi-passenger spacecraft like Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo may still be a few years off, but NASA's personal cab service to and from the International Space Station is set to kick off ahead of schedule.
NASA recently gave the go ahead on the very first cargo delivery to the ISS by SpaceX's Dragon Capsule, pictured here. The private spacecraft is slated to launch at the end of November, and dock with the ISS by the end of 2011 — several months sooner than originally planned.
SpaceX is just one of the private companies courting NASA in a race to become the agency's go-to choice for the delivery of crew and supplies to and from the space station. The shift to commercial space transport signifies just one of the major overhauls NASA is undergoing to help refocus its efforts on deep-space exploration. (Just a few days ago, NASA announced the official creation of its Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, the organization charged with putting a man on Mars.)
According to a statement issued by SpaceX on Monday, the company hopes that ongoing, commercial delivery of astronauts and supplies to and from the ISS will serve to improve the reliability, frequency, and safety of space travel.
We certainly hope they're right. With several companies striving to be the very best TAXI service they can be, one can only hope the competition will help drive down the cost and overhead of space travel, and, ideally, carry over to industries like space tourism.
I, for one, am ready for my Multipass.