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A panel at the 43rd Space Congress in Cape Canaveral discussed the return of human spaceflight to Florida. From left to right: Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program; Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of commercial crew and mission systems; and Garrett Reisman, SpaceX director of crew operations. Not shown is Shawn Quinn, exploration systems manager for NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations program.(Photo: James Dean, FLORIDA TODAY)
A failed resupply mission this week has again highlighted the International Space Station reliance on a single Russian spacecraft to fly astronauts up and down from orbit.
If problems forced an extended grounding of Russia's Soyuz crew vehicle, which shares some common systems with the robotic Progress cargo freighter lost in orbit after its launch Tuesday, no other ride would be available in the near-term. In a worst-case scenario, the station might have to be abandoned.
But if schedules stay on track, two new U.S. spacecraft could be ready to launch astronauts from the Space Coast in two or three years, resuming human launches from U.S. soil that ended with NASA's retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
"If you look at it as a global effort, we need to have a redundant way to get humans back and forth from space, " said Chris Ferguson, a former shuttle astronaut who is now director of crew and mission systems for Boeing's commercial crew program. "What you see here today, it goes a long way to making that happen."
Ferguson spoke today at the 43rd Space Congress in Cape Canaveral on a panel that discussed the return of human spaceflight to the Space Coast.
Boeing and SpaceX last year won NASA contracts worth up to $6.8 billion to develop private rockets and capsules to fly astronauts from Cape Canaveral by late 2017.
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