Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
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NASA Taps Astronauts for Commercial Flights

NASA Taps Astronauts for Commercial Flights

The astronauts will be the first Americans to launch into orbit from USA soil since NASA's space shuttle program shut down in 2011.

Boeing and SpaceX were awarded contracts in 2014 worth a combined $6.8 billion to build the vehicles, which would enable the use its own transportation systems - something it hasn't done since the space shuttle was retired in 2011.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the crowd.

NASA has named the astronauts chosen to fly on commercial spacecraft made by Boeing and SpaceX to and from the International Space Station, the research laboratory that orbits around Earth. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of previous year, but neither were able to meet that target.

Clockwise from top left: Sunita Williams, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Eric Boe. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011.

Ferguson grew up in a rowhouse on Amity Road in Northeast Philadelphia, playing wire ball and stickball and delivering the Inquirer for pocket money, he said in a 2005 Inquirer article. The missions will likely include veterans from the US' Space Shuttle program, Gizmodo reported.

Nicole Aunapu Mann: Mann was born in California and is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.

The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth. On Friday, the space agency introduced the nine-member team tasked with making the first flights. Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August. Behnken has been in space on two previous occasions. SpaceX aims to launch an uncrewed test flight in November of this year, with a Boeing test flight scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019.

Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown.

The Government Accountability Office said last month that launch plans could be delayed due to incomplete safety measures and accountability issues in NASA's commercial crew program. Behnken flew on Endeavour twice, STS-123 and STS-130, while Hurley was pilot on Endeavour for STS-127 and Atlantis on STS-135.

By handing off crew and cargo runs to the space station - which will keep orbiting until at least 2024 - NASA has set its sight on the moon and Mars, developing the Orion capsule and the massive Space Launch System rocket.

In all, eight astronauts will be assigned to initial test flights and missions to the International Space Station. The other commercial crew members are still with NASA.

Eric Boe: Boe was born in Florida and grew up in Atlanta. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft. He has a master's degree in physics and is a US Navy test pilot who has served in more than 20 combat missions.

Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies.

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