The U.S. Currently Pays Russia To Send Astronauts To Space. SpaceX Could Change That.

It was the first time a commercial vehicle had ever docked at the station.

SpaceX successfully landed a commercial spacecraft in the Atlantic Ocean after a trip to and from the International Space Station, a major step forward for Elon Musk's plan to partner with NASA on sending humans into orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

The Dragon spacecraft took the week-long trip to and from the ISS without any passengers on board, but the mission — still under review — could draw enough support from NASA that it will lead to a trip with astronauts on board, ending a long drought of "human spaceflight from U.S. soil," The Washington Post reported. The United States has been paying Russia to send its astronauts to space since 2011 when NASA retired space shuttles.

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SpaceX is a contractor for NASA and, since 2002, has been trying to develop a commercial spacecraft that can take humans into Earth's orbit or even further. Musk has openly dreamed about the possibility of sending humans to Mars. When the Dragon docked on the ISS, it was the first time a commercial space vehicle ever docked at the station. The safe reentry into Earth's atmosphere —and the safe landing in the Atlantic Ocean — was a major breakthrough. 

Shutterstock / John Hunting

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