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Obama to propose privatizing manned-rocket building

WASHINGTON - Getting to space is about to be outsourced.

The Obama administration Monday will propose in its new budget spending billions of dollars to encourage private companies to build, launch and operate spacecraft for NASA and others. Uncle Sam would buy its astronauts a ride into space just like hopping in a taxi.

The idea is that getting astronauts into orbit, which NASA has been doing for 49 years, is getting to be so old that someone other than the government can do it. Going private would free NASA to do other things, such as explore beyond Earth's orbit. And it would spur a new generation of private companies to innovate.

Some believe space is still a tough, dangerous enterprise not to be left to private companies out for a buck. Government would lose vital knowledge and control, critics fear.

The White House has said it will add $5.9 billion to the NASA budget over five years. John Gedmark, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, believes most or all will go to commercial space.

The leading contenders to build private spaceships include established aerospace giants, such as Boeing Co. But it's the newer space guard that brings some excitement to the field. PayPal founder Elon Musk may be ahead of most. His SpaceX already has a Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule.- AP

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