New spaceships should be safer than shuttle - Technology & science - Space - msnbc.com NASA says private-sector spaceships will have to satisfy safety standards that the space shuttle can’t meet — and the companies building those spaceships say they'll rise to the challenge. Over the past year, the White House and NASA decided to go with a different approach, with the space agency purchasing services from commercial spaceship ventures. NASA is paying out hundreds of millions of dollars for the development of cargo ships such as SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which passed its first flight test last month. If the spaceships work as advertised, commercial companies would be in line for billions of dollars worth of contracts. The Challenger and Columbia disasters led risk analysts to estimate that flying the space shuttle carried a roughly 1-in-100 chance that the crew and the spaceship would be lost during a given mission. In the wake of the Columbia tragedy, NASA and the White House decided to retire the shuttle fleet and move on to a simpler, safer launch system. Some space veterans think the commercial companies can't do it. Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan — who was the last man to walk on the moon back in 1972 — complained to Congress last year that the new players in spaceflight "do not yet know what they don't know, and that can lead to dangerous and costly consequences." The space shuttle has no launch escape system. If it did, there might have been a chance of saving Challenger's crew. Also, a pusher abort system on a reusable spacecraft would have to be positioned to minimize the risk of damage during re-entry. Despite those drawbacks, SpaceX and other companies (such as Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Orbital Sciences and Blue Origin) are hard at work designing pushers with NASA funding. -------------------------------- The right wing goes on about "commercial companies being able to do it best". But when the development is moved to a commercial company, they whine. Then the obvious split between the left and the non-scientific right. The right says, "Let's go to the moon" using existing technology. The logical question, which they can't seem to answer is, "Then what?" Obama and the left says, let's develop technology that will allow us to go to Mars and beyond. The right says, "What's a Mar's?"