The 1958 Russian Sputnik satellite changed America in the Cold
War. The termination of the multibillion-dollar American Apollo moon
program, as well as the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986,
changed the role of America’s government astronauts forever.
The American government is paying the Russians
more than $70 million to ferry each NASA astronaut to the International
Space Station aboard a Soyuz capsule. As the commercial space launch
sector develops human-rated spacecraft to carry Americans to orbit, the
picture of the new private-astronaut persona will emerge.
The next dramatic moments in human spaceflight
might not be from a square-jawed, buzz-cut, hotshot male aviator
superhero piloting a spacecraft to the surface of the moon. Instead, it
may be the corporate researcher mom holding a doctoral degree in lunar
geology and mining engineering.
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