The last shuttle launch drew more than its fair share of tears. For many Americans, the shuttle program was essentially what defined "space" in their minds. With that part of the nation's history over, NASA is looking at the commercial space industry for development. Between the Sierra Nevada Corporation, Boeing, and SpaceX, NASA has awarded over $1.1 billion to further explore commercial spaceflight.
Sierra Nevada Corporation
On July 21, the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed for the last time, ending three decades of missions in space. With the conclusion of the Shuttle program, the quest to restore the United States' ability to send astronauts beyond the Earth became far more urgent. Though NASA has been working on a new vehicle since 2004, it also began supporting a number of home-grown commercial space operations. As part of the Commercial Crew Development initiative, four companies have started work on spacecraft that will eventually carry astronauts to the International Space Station -- and perhaps beyond.