Orion Space Mission

5 years after shuttle, NASA awaits commercial crew capsules

Five years after Atlantis completed the space shuttle program's final voyage, NASA is still at least a year away from launching its astronauts from U.S. soil.

When Atlantis returned to Earth on July 21, 2011, everyone knew there would be a lengthy gap. But the pilots who guided Atlantis to one last "wheels stop" are doing all they can to hurry up the future, albeit from different teams.

One works for Boeing on the company's Starliner crew capsule under development. The other is one of four NASA astronauts training for the initial test flights.

This unprecedented switch from government to commercial rocketships promises to usher in a whole new era,...