NASA names astronauts for Boeing, SpaceX flights

Cristina Cross
August 4, 2018

NASA on Friday named nine astronauts for the first manned space launches from USA soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

SpaceX and Boeing built new spaceships for NASA to fly its astronauts into orbit.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

The space agency also confirmed Boeing's plan to put off its first crewed space taxi mission until mid-2019, and geared up to announce who'd be on the first space taxi flights for SpaceX's Crew Dragon as well as Boeing's Starliner.

SpaceX and Boeing are shooting for a test flight of their capsules to the International Space Station by the end of this year or early next, with the first crews flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer.

Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who is now a Boeing employee.

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.

NASA is due to live-stream the announcement from Johnson Space Center in Texas at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT) Friday, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine presiding. (BA) to the punch when it comes to flying astronauts to the International Space Station.

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United States astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat.

The new spaceflight capability provided by Boeing and SpaceX will allow NASA to maintain a crew of seven astronauts on the space station, thereby maximizing scientific research that leads to breakthroughs and also aids in understanding and mitigating the challenges of long-duration spaceflight.

The other four astronauts that NASA has selected, however, aren't yet publicly known.

NASA said the spacecraft returned to Earth with more than 3,800 pounds (more than 1,700 kilograms) of cargo, including specimens from biological experiments conducted on-board the space station. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight.

She was the first person to run a marathon in space, cranking out the miles on a treadmill in the space station while the Boston Marathon was being run on Earth in April 2007.

Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights.

During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight. He is a Navy commander, aviator and test pilot with nearly 3,000 hours flying more than 40 different aircraft. Hopkins was a member of Expedition 37 and 38 in 2013 and 2014. A NASA press release says more crew members may be added to those flights later.

"Rockets are fun. I'll be ready, I can't wait", Williams said in an interview posted Friday on the International Space Station Facebook page. But the schedule has repeatedly moved to the right for SpaceX as well as Boeing, due to setbacks ranging from SpaceX's launch pad blow-up in 2016 to Boeing's engine valve problems this June.

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