NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

SpaceX Dragon

"We're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

The Boeing and SpaceX crewed test missions are arguably the most anticipated spaceship test flights this century.

Their successful test flight will pave the way for two different astronauts to take the Starliner to the International Space Station for Boeing's first operational mission at a later date. Former chief astronaut Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - who served as co-pilot on the final shuttle mission - will fly on SpaceX's Dragon during its first manned flight.

During an announcement Friday to introduce the astronauts at Johnson Space Center in Texas, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the "health of NASA and our space exploration program is as strong as it's ever been". The launch window for the mission opens at 3:48 a.m EDT on August 11, 2018.

The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon.

Crew for each flight will include at least a flight commander and a pilot.

Nicole Mann: Mann was chosen as an astronaut in 2013, coming to NASA from the Marine Corps, where she was a Lieutenant Colonel and a test pilot.

"Once you get into the spacecraft, you're on your way, you've got a mission, you're focused, and it's really exciting", she said. "But you know, it looks like it might". (BA) to the punch when it comes to flying astronauts to the International Space Station.

On Boeing's first post-certification mission, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who has flown on the space station two times already, will fly to the outpost again with first-time space flier Josh Cassada.

It's been a long trip for these astronauts.

President Donald Trump fired off a celebratory tweet today to laud NASA's first astronaut crews to fly on private spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX, a message that also appeared to hail the president's proposed military Space Force.

Nasa on Friday named the first nine astronauts who will fly to space on Boeing and SpaceX vehicles in 2019 - a mix of novices and veterans who are tasked with restoring America's ability to send humans into orbit.

At the helm will be Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. And Nasa also named the astronauts for those flights as well.

NASA paid seed money to SpaceX and Boeing to incentivize them to develop the crew capsules, picking up where the shuttle program left off. Since then, NASA has been dependent on Russia's Soyuz rockets and spacecraft, paying upward of $70 million per seat to fly Americans to and from the ISS. The crews will be the first to venture into the final frontier from Florida on American-made ships since 2011.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the close of 2019.

Both vehicles are capable of reaching the ISS autonomously, and will do so and return to Earth before humans climb aboard.

The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away.

An unmanned Boeing flight test is scheduled for later this year, with the first crew on board in mid-2019, Nasa said.

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