NASA assigns astronauts to first commercial crew missions

Minnie NorrisAug 04, 2018

They will be the first Americans to launch into space from US soil since NASA's space shuttle program retired in 2011.Since then, the USA has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to carry Americans space.

Since the space shuttle program was shut down, the USA space agency NASA has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly astronauts to space station, a $100 billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.

The astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon acknowledge the media upon introduction at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 3, 2018.

The agency assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. 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.

She made headlines in 2007 for being the first person to run a full marathon in space.

Leading up to the ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the agency: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".

Williams has already taken two trips to the space station, commanded it, and racked up 322 days in space, second on the all-time list for female astronauts.

Recent delays have pushed back the first flights of the Starliner and crewed Dragon to 2019, with uncrewed test flights hopefully happening in November for SpaceX or late this year, early next year for Boeing.

More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, NASA said.

NASA has unveiled the first astronaut crews to fly on private spaceships built by SpaceX and Boeing.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, on current timelines, is set to make its maiden crewed flight in April. Boeing most recently suffered a problem while testing its emergency abort system and its first test flight has been delayed until at least mid-2019.

Even before the end of the shuttle program, NASA got to work to find a replacement.

The successful flight marked the scheduled end of the 30-year space shuttle program. 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.

After a almost decadelong hiatus, NASA plans to once again start launching piloted spacecraft from American soil, this time aboard two commercially developed vehicles, beginning in early to mid-2019.

SpaceX's first crew will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins.

Trump wasn't the only one heralding NASA's commercial crew announcement today. This will be his first spaceflight. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

Boeing's Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Besides Ferguson and Mann, the initial commercial crew members are: Eric Boe, Sunita Williams and John Cassada riding on Boeing.

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