SpaceX stated during a conference at the Kennedy Space Center that it plans to send a crew of its own employees into orbit in 2015. This follows the company's successfully completed unmanned mission to the ISS, earning the record of first commercial company to do so. The announcement was made by Garret Reisman, one of SpaceX's project managers and former NASA astronaut.
SpaceX is taking this step as a way to demonstrate that its Dragon and Falcon 9 are safe and ready to carry NASA crew members into space. NASA is likewise enthusiastic about the mission, stating that it wants to know when these companies are ready to fly their own crew at their own risk. Unlike its historic unmanned mission to the ISS, this flight will not dock at the station. Likewise, it is being reported that the vessel will stay in space for a minimum of three days.
When asked if he would be part of the crew that SpaceX sends into orbit, Reisman offered this statement. "I did not come to SpaceX specifically ... with the intent of going back to space. What's important to me is that I can look myself in the mirror … [and say] that the risk is acceptable for me to fly."
NASA has been pursuing commercial companies, having had to utilize Russia for sending astronauts into space after the space shuttle was retired. Commercial companies will save the U.S. a substantial amount of money, but aren't quite at the point they need to be yet. By sending a crew into space, SpaceX will demonstrate its abilities while taking a big step towards ushering in a new future of space exploration.
[via Orlando Sentinel]