Human Spaceflight

Human spaceflight (or manned spaceflight or crewed spaceflight) is space travel with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes controlled remotely by humans or through automatic methods on board the spacecraft.

The first manned spaceflight was launched by the Soviet Union on April 12, 1961 as a part of the Vostok programme of space exploration, with a cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on board.

Currently, only Russia and China maintain human spaceflight capability independent of international cooperation. As of 2011, human spaceflights are being actively launched by the Soyuz programme conducted by the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Shenzhou program conducted by the China National Space Administration. This does not account for private non-government activities.

The U.S. lost human spaceflight launch capability upon retirement of the Space Shuttle on July 21, 2011. Under the Bush administration, the Constellation Program included plans for canceling the Shuttle and replacing it with the capability for spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit. In the 2011 United States federal budget, the Obama administration proposed canceling Constellation in part due to Constellation being over budget and behind schedule while not innovating and investing in critical new technologies. Under the new plan, NASA would rely on transportation services provided by the private sector, such as Space X's Falcon 9. The period between the retirement of the Shuttle and the initial operational capability of new systems (either Constellation or the new commercial proposals), similar to the gap between the cancellation of Apollo and the first Space Shuttle flight, is often referred to as the human spaceflight gap.

In recent years there has been a gradual movement towards more commercial forms of spaceflight. A number of non-governmental startup companies have sprung up in recent years, hoping to create a space tourism industry. For a list of such companies, and the spacecraft they are currently building, see List of private spaceflight companies. NASA has also tried to stimulate private spaceflight through programs such as Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) and Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS). With its 2011 budget proposals released in early February 2010, the Obama administration is moving towards a model where commercial companies would supply NASA with transportation services of both crew and cargo to low Earth orbit. The vehicles used for these services would then serve both NASA and potential commercial customers. NASA intends to spend $6 billion in the coming years to develop commercial crew vehicles, using a model similar to that used under COTS.

Read more about Human SpaceflightSpace Programs, National Spacefaring Attempts, Safety Concerns

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