Right Stuff, Wrong Time
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Credit: Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle / AP
Musk's controlling personality was hardly the most pressing problem. More debilitating had been the Capitol Hill fight over ever-scarcer federal dollars, which pitted NASA higher-ups and firms like SpaceX and Boeing against legislators skeptical of commercial spaceflight and reluctant to lose jobs dependent on NASA's existing programs. In the current fiscal year, Congress agreed to fund commercial crew development at only $406 million, less than half the $850 million requested by the Obama administration. NASA currently projects that private spacecraft will begin taking astronauts to the space station in 2017, but that appears unlikely at best. Bowersox told me that on bad days, he fears "it's going to be nine, 10 years before we see anything flying." Private spaceflight triumphs like the docking, in May, of SpaceX's Dragon capsule with the ISS could be few and far between.