Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts for NASA’s new private space flight programme

Cristina Cross
August 4, 2018

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.

NASA has worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX to design, develop, and test their spacecraft and systems to ensure they are safe.

"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back, that we are flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said as he unveiled the crew members in Houston, Texas.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", he told the enthusiastic audience. He came to NASA from the Air Force, where he was a fighter pilot and test pilot and rose to the rank of colonel. The missions will likely include veterans from the US' Space Shuttle program, Gizmodo reported.

In this illustration, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown in low-Earth orbit.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

Boe is a former shuttle pilot; Mann will be making her first trip into space.

Robert Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. As the other astronauts donned NASA patches on their blue jumpsuits, Ferguson wore a Boeing applique.

Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

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NASA contracted both companies to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Josh Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

His father, Ian Ferguson, a computer salesman who died of cancer in 1981, prominently displayed in their house a framed autograph of Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown. Eric Boe, retired Navy Capt. But the agency's image arguably peaked with Neil Armstrong's steps on the moon; and since then its grandeur has lagged, having fallen victim to a series of failed space missions, deep funding cuts to research, and changing political will.

Victor Glover is from Pomona, California. He made 400 carrier landings and flew 24 combat missions. He will be part of the first commercial capsule to orbit.

Michael Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri, and grew up on a farm near Richland, Missouri.

However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned last month that certification delays for the two companies could, for a while, leave NASA with no way to get American astronauts onto the ISS. Ferguson, the Boeing astronaut, flew three shuttle missions, and has logged more than 40 days in space. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. Just as in the past, all human launches will originate here on the space coast.

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 end of 2019.

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