Astronauts could soon be zooming into space in a gumdrop—er, a gumdrop-shaped capsule. SpaceX yesterday unveiled its Dragon V2, which is designed to carry seven astronauts to the International Space Station and will ultimately be able to "land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter," CEO Elon Musk said. Since 2011, NASA has handed the Russians $70 million per astronaut per ride to the ISS on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft; Musk says the Dragon V2 would cost more like $20 million per seat. SpaceX is joined by Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp., and Blue Origin in its development of replacements for NASA's retired space shuttle fleet, and the agency intends to pick the projects that it wants to see realized in the next few months, with an eye on a 2017 launch.
As NBC News points out, SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsules are well-acquainted with the ISS—they've been making trips there since 2012. The second-generation version has the accommodations needed to carry people: seats for one, along with life support systems and a thruster system that could kick in if things go awry during the ascent. This newest capsule will also be able to autonomously dock at the ISS, reports Phys.org. What SpaceX still plans to add: legs, which would enable the Dragon to land on, well, land, rather than in the sea. "That is how a 21st-century spaceship should land," Musk said. You can watch the reveal in full here. (Read more SpaceX stories.)