Boeing Offers A Peek Into NASA's Next Venture Into Space

" One o'clock is the next time we have another suit up ..."

The CST-100 — on the outside — looks like a throwback from the Apollo program, the third human spaceflight program carried out by NASA in the 60s and 70s, but the inside reflects the updated technology since the beginning of space exploration.

After the space shuttle program ended two years ago, many of the Boeing workers and astronauts moved on to the CST-100. Chris Ferguson, the last space shuttle commander, now directs crew and mission operations for Boeing. He showed me and other members of the media a mock-up of the capsule:

"The feedback is that our design is sound, that the reach visibility of the layout is very accommodating to the pilots. You'll see that we actually have a couple of tablet computers in there that we're going to use for our checklist, and we're really trying to streamline a lot of our operations so that we don't have, you may remember some of the pictures of the shuttle cockpit that had just pieces of cardboard paper pasted everywhere. We're really going to try to streamline it in the form of updateable procedures on a tablet computer."

He says he hopes the CST-100 will eventually have a more commercial name because the space industry is changing:

"You know, like the 'millionaire passenger' is one, but I think more realistically, there's a lot of countries out there who would like to have a space program of their own but perhaps, who can't afford the infrastructure to afford a fulltime space program. So hey, why don't we the commercial industry, kind of give them an opportunity to have a space program of their own for three months or six months, or however long they choose to do it."

The capsule fits 5 people comfortably, but could carry as many as seven people into low earth orbit and to the International Space Station. Astronaut Serena Aunon was in a space suit getting a feel of the inside:                  

astronaunt"I feel like there's more room definitely than there is inside the Soyuz Russian trainer, that's for sure. The Russian Soyuz trainer, you are pretty close, close quarters, so definitely these vehicles do feel more roomy."

Although this is now a private effort, NASA is still heavily involved. It will provide nearly 600-million dollars to Boeing to develop this capsule. Kathy Lueders is deputy program manager for NASA's commercial crew program:

"We're here to leverage every single dollar we have, into a capability that potentially is not just so focused on one particular use, but potentially then can be used in multiple markets."

Powered by the Atlas-5 rocket, Boeing should conduct its first test flight of the spacecraft in 2016, and carry its first NASA astronauts to orbit the following year.

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