23 Jun NASA Commercial Crew Program
After the Constellation Program was cancelled in 2010 and the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, the US had to rely on the Russians to fly our Astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The Commercial Crew Program was initiated to provide assured assess to ISS using vehicles developed by Commercial companies. NASA would leverage their 50+ years of human spaceflight experience to assist the commercial companies with the development, testing and operations of the vehicle but the designs would be theirs. The vehicles would be capable of flying passengers other than NASA astronauts such as Space Tourists. Allowing commercial companies to serve Low Earth Orbit (LEO) missions would enable NASA to focus on missions beyond LEO such as a mission back to the moon or on to Mars.
About nine months after the Constellation program was canceled and before the last space shuttle flight, I took a position as the risk manager on the newly formed Commercial Crew Program. Ed Mango, NASA’s recovery director after the Columbia accident and deputy manager of the orbiter project for several RTF missions, was selected as the first manager of the Commercial Crew Program. His deputy was Brent Jett, the former astronaut who directed recovery of the deceased Columbia crew. The US government, through NASA, was investing in the development of a US commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and return from the International Space Station. The program objective was to foster the development of a certified end-to-end crew transportation system for use in low Earth orbit. This would effectively close the human spaceflight gap and reduce the reliance on the Russians.