The Atlantic

Don’t Blame the Government Shutdown for SpaceX Delays

The impasse in Washington hasn’t yet threatened a significant milestone in the American space program.
Source: Mike Blake / Reuters

NASA astronauts haven’t launched to space from the United States in nearly eight years.

They’ve gone to space, of course. An American astronaut is up there right now. But they launch from Kazakhstan, at a hulking facility in the middle of the desert, in a Russian capsule, snuggled close to Russian cosmonauts, on a Russian rocket.

When the U.S. government retired its iconic but expensive space-shuttle program in 2011, officials promised the arrangement would be temporary. One day, human space flight would return to U.S. soil, this time with commercial companies at the helm.

SpaceX and Boeing, with funding from, have spent the designing and building astronaut launch systems. By the end of 2018, the finish line was in sight, after frequent delays and several for both companies. The first big tests of the program went on the schedule for 2019. The United States was gearing up to restore its capability as a spacefaring nation.

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