End of NASA shuttle program begins new space race - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

End of NASA shuttle program begins new space race

SpaceX showing off their new technology including the Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX showing off their new technology including the Falcon 9 rocket.
Media awaiting the launch of the Atlantis. Media awaiting the launch of the Atlantis.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. -

After dozens of liftoffs and landings over three decades, Atlantis is set to launch.

Atlantis marks the 135th and last shuttle mission ending a program that dates back to 1981. Before that Apollo, Gemini and the first of course Mercury.

So what's the next chapter in American space flight?

A new space race is underway, but this time it's a commercial race to the stars.

"The goal of SpaceX is to increase our access to space. And especially in regards to carrying humans up there," said Garrett Reisman of Space X. "That is the reason why the company was founded. To make it more economical and safer to get both people and payloads into space."

And SpaceX is just one of many companies looking to fill the need to transport people and things into space. SpaceX has set up shop with mission control rooms and developing and testing a capsule called Dragon. And they're building the next generation of rockets like their Falcon 9.

Other companies like Sierra Nevada, are in a high dollar competition to contract with NASA to provide a viable transport system to the international space station.

The future of space is two-fold. Private companies will develop transport systems to go into low earth orbit and to the space station while NASA focuses on deep space exploration.

Taking people and equipment to asteroids, Mars and beyond.

Copyright WCSC 2011. All rights reserved.

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