NASA orders SpaceX to taxi astronauts to the ISS in 2017

Right now, flying to the International Space Station means leaving from Russia, but it won't always be that way. Today, NASA announced that it officially ordered a crew rotation mission from Elon Musk's SpaceX, due to launch sometime in 2017. This is actually the second mission order to come out of the space agency's Commercial Crew Program -- the first order being awarded to Boeing back in May -- but it's still not clear which commercial outfit will have the honor of playing taxi for astronauts first.

Either way, NASA is looking forward to working with both firms, and says that these commercial launches will significantly reduce the cost of transporting astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. NASA, SpaceX and Boeing still need to go through test flights, safety checks and review, but the orders represent a major step forward in freeing the US space program from its dependency on Russia. Check out the official announcement at the source link below.

[Image credit: Associated Press]