NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

SpaceX and Boeing, which are partnering with NASA, will first launch test flights, then regular missions.

Behnken, Hurley, Boe and Sunita Williams have been training on SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner since July 2015.

NASA has unveiled the first astronaut crews to fly on private spaceships built by SpaceX and Boeing. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

Bob Behnken: Behnken was chosen as an astronaut in 2000 and has been to space twice on two shuttle missions. He flew on a Space Shuttle Endeavour mission in 2008 and a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 2011.

There are four flights in all-two each for SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner vehicle-scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) throughout 2019 once uncrewed test flights are complete. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. For the last seven years, we've been forced to essentially hitchhike, catch a ride with the Russians on Russian rockets.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", said Hurley, who flew on the last shuttle mission.

For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight.

Space X's Dragon will be tested by Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will be on the crew for that mission.

NASA "has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company", the agency said. SpaceX and Boeing were picked by NASA in 2014 to develop spacecrafts to return that capability to the United States, and both companies are slated to launch their first crewed missions in the next year.

Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class.

On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing.

Boe is one of nine people who were named as commercial crew astronauts during a ceremony Friday at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of past year, but neither were able to meet that target.

"As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this", said Mann, a Naval aviator. That will include Canada, Europe and Japan, who have traditionally relied on NASA for ISS transportation.

Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.

The demonstration flights by Boeing and SpaceX will spend a short period in orbit before coming straight back to Earth.

The announcement signals a milestone in the U.S. space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

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