(Reuters) - Space shuttle Discovery is poised to launch its last space mission on Wednesday as NASA nears the end of the space agency’s 29-year-old shuttle program.
Here’s a look at what’s next for human space travel.
* Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled for its final flight in February to deliver the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station.
* Shuttle Atlantis may fly again next summer on a final shuttle cargo run to the station if Congress agrees to fund the extra mission, estimated to cost about $600 million.
* NASA wants to help commercial U.S. firms develop the capability to fly people to the station so it can buy flights commercially. Five firms are currently working under the agency’s $50 million Commercial Crew Development program, with another $200 million in the offing. Proposals are due December 13 and awards are expected to be announced in March.
* Russia will be the sole provider of crew transportation to the station, at a cost of $51 million a seat until U.S. firms are up for the job.
* Congress wants NASA to start work on a heavy-lift rocket that can travel in deep space, well beyond the station’s 220 mile high orbit.
Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral; Editing by Kevin Gray and Cynthia Osterman