NASA made a "historic" announcement Tuesday afternoon: It will be launching American astronauts from U.S. soil again through partnerships with private companies.
Boeing Corporation and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) won a $6.8 billion contract to build the spacecraft that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, ending a costly deal the agency had with Russia's space program.
NASA astronauts have been riding Russian rockets ever since the shuttles retired in 2011. The latest pricetag for that service is $71 million per seat.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolton, who called himself "giddy" at the news conference that took place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said this move "sets the stage for what promises to be the most ambitious and exciting chapter" in space travel for the country.
"Today we're one step closer to launching our astronauts on U.S. soil" in U.S.-made spacecraft, Bolton said, attributing this step to the current federal administration, which he said was determined to ending America's reliance on other countries to shuttle NASA astronauts into space.
"For the first time in more than 40 years, this nation is going to launch a vehicle intended to carry humans into low Earth orbit," Bolton said later in his announcement about the NASA's commercial crew program, among other upcoming activities of the agency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.