Private companies are already sending cargo into space on their own, but no one is sending any people yet--for now, Americans can only get to space with help from the Russians. When commercial aerospace firms do start delivering Americans to space for the first time, they will not be wearing NASA meatball patches on their breast pockets.
Instead, commercial test pilots employed by spaceship builders will fly the first crewed missions, according to NASA officials. The space agency is letting the private firms bear that risk before exposing its own astronauts to a privately built ship.
Boeing has already announced it would send its own employees to space--just like the Mercury 7 astronauts were involved in their spaceships' development, Boeing wants input from people who will eventually fly its CST-100. SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. are also building ships to ferry humans, and they, too, will send their own employees up first, according to NASA. The CST-100, SpaceX Dragon and shuttle-looking Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser are designed to carry a crew of up to seven astronauts.
The companies are already using NASA funds and NASA facilities to build the new ships, but NASA wants them to use their own employees first before the space agency will feel like their ships are safe. At a news briefing last week, Ed Mango, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, said the space agency wanted to treat the new equipment like the military does--the company assumes the initial risk before handing over the keys, according to Universe Today. But this doesn't mean there would be any safety shortcuts: "All of us have the same initiative, and it doesn't matter who's sitting on top of the vehicle. It's a person, and that person needs to fly safely and get back home to their families," he said.
More than 50 years after they were unveiled to the world, the members of the Mercury 7 are still the stuff of legend. The military pilots who became our country's first astronauts were unrivaled in their bravery, skill, and probably ego, launching the U.S. into the space age. Will their corporate successors inspire us the same way?
What this capsule needs is flux compactor power, two warp drives, a microwave, refrigerator with lots of hot pockets\pizzas\beer with a super-size flat screen on the wall, oh and a water bed, of course.
And if you see my space capsule rocking, please don’t come a nocking, lol!
No one will be equally as inspired by people who have already accomplished a feat that the Mercury 7 have accomplished first. One, because some of them won't be former fighter pilots. Two, because this really isn't pushing the technological bar higher.
This will inspire people in a new way, because it will be a symbol to how space will no longer be exclusive to the most elite of human beings (scientists, engineers, and test pilots alike). People will be inspired by spaceflight becoming available to the layman. Much like how aviation proliferated in the latter half of the 20th Century. As soon as it's more available to more people through more simplified processes, the human race will finally become a true space faring race.
Not really surprising. When Boeing or whoever develops a new aircraft, they test it first with their pilots.
It does not matter much if the flight crews are NASA employees or private sector employees. The flight crews no longer require any specific skills, since the vehicle controls are now highly automated.
The largest impediment to growth of the US private sector space business is NASA itself. NASA is first and foremost a large federal bureaucracy, whose efforts are primarily focused on securing its operating budget for the next fiscal year. NASA will still do everything it can to control the activities of private space launch companies.