Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
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NASA Announces First Crew for Commercial Space Travel

NASA Announces First Crew for Commercial Space Travel

The first USA astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, waving after being announced, (left to right) Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williamson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on August 3.

The astronauts named on Friday will be carried aloft aboard spacecraft developed by entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing Co, crewing first the test flights, and then missions involving both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the US has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.

The astronauts assigned to the Starliner's first mission are Sunita Williams, who retired as a Navy captain, and Cmdr.

In 2015, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams were assigned to the commercial crew program to provide the astronaut's perspective during commercial crew development. This will be Ms. Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013. Bob Behnken of the Air Force and Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

VICE News spoke with Dennis Stone, one of the founding members of NASA's commercial investment program, to hear the story behind the agency's success in backing private spaceflight. "After all these years it hasn't gone away". The contrast was on display Friday.

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the space station will include NASA astronaut and Navy test pilot Victor Glover, who has logged more than 3,000 hours flying 40 different aircraft and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who has logged 166 days in space so far. "That's a big deal".

Both Boeing and SpaceX have faced setbacks and delays - with the latest schedule slips being announced on Thursday.

"Predicting launch dates can make a liar out of every one of us", acknowledged Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX. "We won't let you down".

SpaceX said it would fly crews by April of next year.

NASA has named the crew of astronauts tasked with reviving America's prowess in extraterrestrial travel. Bridenstine said he had faith in the revised timelines.

Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency. The engines fired successfully, but several valves failed to close, allowing toxic propellant to leak from the engine. Boeing believes they know what caused the problem and a fix is in the works.

"I think I probably did it better", Behnken said.

SpaceX, however, did move up the uncrewed test flight of its Dragon spacecraft from December to November of this year. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.

US astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station.

Ferguson commanded the final mission of the space shuttle program, and Hurley was the pilot on that flight. And that was really unfortunate. "That was not good for the American space program".

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