New York Times: Yesterday NASA announced that it is awarding contracts to two private companies, Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), to shuttle US astronauts to the International Space Station. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the US has been relying on Russia to carry US astronauts back and forth. Increasing political tensions between the two countries, however, have forced the US to seek an alternative. Over the next three years, teams for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsules will work to have them certified by NASA and make a test flight to the space station. Once certified, they are each guaranteed at least two missions. The decision marks the first step toward the privatization of human spaceflight. Boeing is already planning to coordinate with NASA to allow a paying tourist to occupy one of the seats on its shuttle, and both Boeing and SpaceX are working with another company that plans to launch private space stations into orbit.