In an unprecedented move, the U.S. space program may turn to private contractors for much of the work now handled by government workers, officials say. Proposals under consideration the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would outsource everything from ferrying cargo into orbit to transporting astronauts, The Wall Street Journal reported last Saturday.
A switch to private contractors would be part of a move to spend between $30 billion and $50 billion less than federal officials first projected when then-President George W. Bush announced in 2004 his plan to return astronauts to the moon, aerospace-industry officials told the Journal. Under the new scenario, contractors would assume many of NASA's current responsibilities, freeing the agency to pursue ambitious goals such as rocket-propulsion technology and manned missions to Mars, the Journal reported. A presidential commission on the future of the U.S. space program reportedly will urge the White House to use private contractors to service the International Space Station after the shuttle fleet is retired in 2011, the Journal reported.