NASA is gearing up to again launch humans into space ... within five years. The agency retired its fleet of shuttles last summer, and this morning it announced a deal worth about $1 billion with three American companies to design and construct the next generation of rocket ships to take off from US soil, reports ComputerWorld. The three companies are Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, and Boeing, and the space vehicles they engineer will be flown for the government and for commercial use. (AP has more details on them here.)
"Today, we are announcing another critical step toward launching our astronauts from US soil on space systems built by American companies," NASA chief Charles Bolden said in a statement. The move "will help keep us on track to end the outsourcing of human spaceflight and create high-paying jobs in Florida and elsewhere across the country." In the meantime, US astronauts will continue to hitch rides with Russian crafts, notes Reuters.