mattnyc99 writes "Popular Mechanics is reporting that NASA — faced with the looming retirement of the space shuttle, and planning for longer missions like the one to Mars we've been discussing — is looking to free up its budget and depend a lot more on private space startups to carry key payloads into orbit in the next few years. For an agency so steeped in bureaucracy, it seems like everyone from NASA chief Mike Griffin to contracted officials to the key players in this in-depth podcast roundtable is finally acknowledging that commercial rocketeering (space tourists aside) is a more efficient means of getting back into space for NASA. Quoting: 'Because of a new focus for NASA's strategic investments — not to mention incentives like the Ansari X Prize, which spurred the space-tourism business, and the Google Lunar X Prize, which could do the same for payloads — private-sector spaceships could be ready for government service soon, says Sam Scimemi, who heads NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. "The industry has grown up," he tells PM. "It used to be that only NASA or the Air Force could do such things."'"