NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- NASA has been contracting out multiple functions of its missions in space to companies like Boeing ( BA) and SpaceX to cut costs and increase efficiency. Blending the public and private sectors has benefited space exploration, said Sam Scimemi, acting director for the International Space Station (ISS) division at NASA, Phil McAlister, current director of Commercial Spaceflight at NASA headquarters, and astronaut Joe Acaba, who rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on June 4.
They represented the Destination Station campaign by NASA's ISS division, which intends to grow national awareness and promote research and education opportunities about ISS. Destination Station also wants to showcase the advantages of ISS for taxpayers.
Unlike the Cold War era Space Race that pit the United States and the USSR against one another, fifteen countries have joined together on the ISS program. This has generated a more collaborative environment.
With public and privately held companies now involved in an extraterrestrial economy once dominated by government funded agencies, funding for missions has fundamentally changed.
McAlister said that the involvement of the private sector has boosted quality and efficiency.
"Mostly what we've seen is that the private sector is much faster at doing things," McAlister told TheStreet. "Sometimes they can introduce innovations into their designs a little bit faster, and they are more cost effective. So you put that together, along with NASA's experience and lessons learned, and you come out with a better product than either one of us could have produced individually. So the partnership has been very, very powerful."
With contracts like the one between NASA and SpaceX for the transportation of astronauts to the ISS, private companies are being paid by NASA, which is funded by taxpayer's money. However these private companies are not spending the money in the same way as the government agencies have been. "The government tends to take more risk in their missions than the private sector does," Scimemi said.
He added that companies are more protective about spending their money. "Because it's their own investment, they are not willing to take as much risk in their missions as NASA is," he said.
Scimemi said that companies are also implementing new technologies at a much faster rate than government agencies have been able to, thus lowering the risk of the missions even further. McAlister went onto explain that this relationship is working well for all parties: "I think our goals are aligned, and we're both spending money on the same things that we both want, which is human space transportation."