In an surprise move, the U.S. space program may turn to private contractors to most of the work now handled by government workers, officials say.

The Obama administration is considering the proposal that would outsource everything from ferrying cargo into orbit to transporting astronauts, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

A switch to private contractors would be part of a move to spend between $30 billion and $50 billion less than federal officials first projected when then-President George W. Bush announced in 2004 his plan to return astronauts to the moon, aerospace-industry officials told the Journal.

A presidential commission on the future of the U.S. space program reportedly will urge the White House to use private contractors to service the International Space Station after the shuttle fleet is retired in 2011, according to the report.