Now that the US government has halted all funding to the U.S. space shuttle program, NASA have begun to look to the private sector for new reusable manned spacecraft. Five private-spacecraft proposals have won U.S. $50 million in federal grants under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including the Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser (a concept drawing of which is illustrated above).
Whichever proposal is successful will have the task of transporting cargo and up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station as well as safely returning crews. The overall aim of the new program is to bridge the gap left by the shuttles dismantling and to allow focus to land on longer trips such as sending rovers to mars.
After the extra caution shown by NASA since the Challenger blew up in 1986, the risk taking in the name of progress taken by the private companies has been heralded as a step in the right direction that could lead to a rush in progress similar to the boom in progress seen with aircrafts in the 1920s.