In a press conference today, NASA announced the next phase of Launch America, its programme to enter the next phase of human spaceflight. The organisation confirmed that it's going to launch test missions to with both Boeing and SpaceX and then decide on one of the companies based on performance.
Essentially, Boeing's CST-100 Space Capsule and SpaceX's Dragon will split the $6.8bn (£4.2bn) contract. Each team will perform an actual flight test to the station with a NASA crew member, demonstrate that they can dock to the station and rerun to Earth safely. Astronauts could be hitching a ride on the new space-taxi system as soon as 2017.
Using these privately designed and manufactured capsules will allow NASA to transport humans to the International Space Station and beyond at a fraction of the cost, and give the US independence so it won't have to rely on Russia to hitch rides out of the atmosphere. It will also allow NASA to focus on sending a manned mission to Mars, and, eventually, set up a viable system for space tourism.