While I normally focus on issues a *bit* closer to home, I wanted to pass along a bit of newsworthy and, frankly, historic news from NASA.  Yesterday, the agency announced that it entered into two contracts (with Boeing and SpaceX, respectively) for the transportation of U.S. astronauts from Earth to the International Space Station.  Currently, the U.S. is relying on Russian craft to make the trip.  Cumulatively, the contracts could be worth nearly $7 billion.

The announcement marks a unique partnership between the federal government and private industry that NASA hopes will impact the future of space exploration in two interesting ways.  First, the move could lead to a bump in American space tourism – allowing increased access for those hoping for a totally new perspective on the world.  Second, by allowing others to handle its low-Earth transportation needs, NASA will free itself up to concentrate on other, big-picture objectives, such as a manned mission to Mars.

Hopefully this story offers an interesting escape from our everyday, Earth-bound government contracting and construction issues.  Look for news of test flights in the not too distant future, as NASA plans for Boeing and SpaceX to take over full-time duties under the contracts by 2017.