I've heard NASA has awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to provide rides for astronauts to the space station, starting in 2016/2017. I figured something like this was coming, because I knew that
1) they discontinued the shuttles because Congress won't let them do more than one project at a time. I guess that's one 'transportation' project, because there's been loads of science projects done at the same time.
2) they were paying Russia a b**tload to carry astronauts to the station, but recent events in Ukraine have made that arrangement tenuous.
3) private companies have already been given contracts to take supplies and equipment to the space station, including mice and other lab animals, so why not people?
I've also been thinking about the history of exploration, of people moving into new and unknown territories. Most of it happened before any notes were kept, before the only government was tribal hierarchy. But from what I can remember of world history, there was a pattern to exploration and settling a new 'unknown' territory.
The pattern seems to be that a government would send people out to explore. Sometimes the ruler would accompany his army, such as Alexander the Great, but in other instances, the government merely provided the means, such as for Christopher Columbus.
Alexander may have been 'seeing what was there' for himself, but his great venture was more about conquest than exploration, and the lands he went were already well occupied and settled, so there was not much in the way of resettling.
But in the case of the Americas and Australia, there was still plenty of land available. And people set out to claim their own little piece. (Yes, this was not voluntary in the case of Australia, I know that.)
The point is that governments may have 'found' and 'explored' unknown territory, but businesses and individuals then did the actual moving in. Yes, it's more dangerous to leave Earth for a space station, the moon or another planet than to sail across an ocean of water. But as a government agency, NASA has done its job in producing a space station, exploring the moon and is now moving on to more distant territories.
It's time for (some of) us to move out there to start homes and businesses.