NASA reveals crews for first flights of commercial spaceships

NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station

NASA's partners on the International Space Station program - the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency - are expected to assign members of their own astronaut corps to the CST-100 and Crew Dragon crew rotation flights. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, an experienced spacewalker who flew on two shuttle missions, will strap into the Crew Dragon alongside former shuttle pilot Doug Hurley.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the station, the orbiting laboratory. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

Mr. Ferguson, who has been involved from the start in the Starliner's development, flew three shuttle missions as a NASA astronaut. Mr. Boe piloted two shuttle flights.

U.S. astronauts have been relying on Russian capsules to travel to the space station, with each seat costing NASA as much as $82 million (€71 million). Since then, the space agency has turned to private space firms, like SpaceX, to oversee cargo runs to the ISS, while sending USA astronauts there on Russian rockets.

The group includes former space shuttle flyers, ex-military test pilots, rookies, and - critically - a cadre of four astronauts who've already been testing and providing feedback on the new commercial ships for years. It will be Mr. Glover's first time in space. The agency has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company.

The first crew to be presented was that of the Boeing Starliner capsule, which will make a trial flight scheduled for mid-2019 and will be boosted into space from Florida's Kennedy Space Center by an Atlas V rocket of the United Launch Alliance.

Nasa took the decision after the shuttle retired to turn transportation to low-Earth obit destinations into a service that it could buy.

Josh Cassada: Coming to NASA after a career as a test pilot in the Navy, Cassada was chosen as an astronaut in 2013. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX.

For Crew Dragon, the now confirmed crew includes Navy commander, aviator, and test pilot Victor Glover. She's also spent 50 hours and 40 minutes on spacewalks, an accomplishment that is second on the list for female astronauts, according to her NASA biography.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the event attended by several members of Congress and other NASA and industry officials. 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. It has also been paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year. In any case, SpaceX is now the presumed leader of the race to capture the flag left on the station by the final space shuttle crew-a flag that has been waiting to return to Earth for eight years and counting.

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