NASA astronauts won't always have to rely on Russian vehicles to ferry them to and from space. Instead, the U.S. Space Agency will invest $1.61 billion in a space taxi program for private companies to supply the services, reports Reuters.
Dubbed the Integrated Design Project (IDC), everything from launchers, spaceships, mission operations and ground support will be required, according to the new plan unveiled Monday.
Since the U.S. put to bed its space shuttle fleet over the summer, Russia's space agency now charges $50 million per NASA astronaut, notes PC Mag.
Just last week AP reported that Russia's Roscosmos space agency experienced a breakdown in communication for several minutes after the Soyuz capsule had de-orbited. Though contact was re-established between the crew and support aircraft before safely landing, a NASA astronaut was one of three crew on board.
NASA explained in a press statement that the aim of IDC is "to outsource our space station transportation so NASA can focus its energy and resources on deep space exploration."
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