Monday marked the first time NASA had updated the public on the space taxi competition since a third company, Sierra Nevada, challenged the selection of Boeing and SpaceX. The Government Accountability Office overruled the challenge.
NASA's Kathy Lueders said having an American space taxi will do more than save money, it will also double science and research capabilities aboard the space station. And even as the two companies are "frenemies" competing against each other, they are also collaborating.
Later this year, a new international docking adaptor will be flown and installed on the space station. The docking adaptor is being built by Boeing. It will be shipped aboard a SpaceX rocket.
"The world of low-earth orbit belongs to industry. It doesn't belong to government. It doesn't belong to NASA at all," said Bolden. By contracting out these missions to private enterprise for less money, NASA can focus more resources on getting to Mars with the Orion program and the new Space Launch System rocket.
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NASA has been criticized for continuing to fund the space station, but Bolden praised President Barack Obama's decision to keep the program going through 2024. He said it will allow private enterprise to continue developing low-earth orbit technology that can be used "as a springboard" to get deeper into space.
Sometime after 2024, NASA will dismantle the space station, and Bolden suggested that future similar research can be conducted through private ventures such as Bigelow Aerospace and its space habitats.
As for Mars, NASA currently has no plans to contract with SpaceX to get to the red planet, even though CEO Elon Musk has made it clear that Mars is his goal.
"I think it's going to take a village, frankly, to get to Mars," said Shotwell. "I'm sure it's going to be a collaborative effort."
Bolden seemed to agree. "Everyone wants to see competition, but going to Mars is hard. Let me say that one more time: Going to Mars is hard. I think everyone on this stage realizes nobody is going to do it by themselves."