NASA Taps Georgia Tech Alumnus for Historic Space Mission

Cristina Cross
August 6, 2018

NASA announced the nine astronauts that will fly on the first crewed flights of SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft during a ceremony here at the agency's Johnson Space Center.

NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing's astronaut Christopher Ferguson will fly the Boeing Starliner test flight, while NASA's Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will pilot the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight.

The two pairs of NASA crewmates will be accompanied to the station by Russian cosmonauts and global astronauts, to be announced at a later date.

The launches will mark the first manned flights to take off from US soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

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

NASA has named the astronauts chosen to fly on commercial spacecraft made by Boeing and SpaceX to and from the International Space Station, the research laboratory that orbits around Earth.

Ferguson isn't now a NASA employee, though he served as an astronaut from 1998 to 2011 and commanded the final Space Shuttle mission. SpaceX's and Boeing's rockets will be the first commercially-developed vehicles to transport astronauts to the ISS. Boeing and Space Adventures, the US company that arranged space tourist flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, have a partnership that could allow paying passengers to ride in a fifth seat on CST-100 missions for shorter-duration missions.

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"The first flight is something that you dream about as a test pilot and, you know, you don't think it's ever going to happen to you", he said. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

There will first be a test flight for each capsule without a crew - towards the International Space Station and back, planned to be finished by the end of this year or early next year.

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the space station will include NASA astronaut and Navy test pilot Victor Glover, who has logged more than 3,000 hours flying 40 different aircraft and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who has logged 166 days in space so far. Cassada is a rookie astronaut selected in 2013, while Williams, the fourth astronaut selected for commercial crew training, has spent 322 days in space on two long-duration station missions. Boeing is also part of the United Launch Alliance (along with Lockheed Martin), a launch services company that uses launchpads at both CCAFS and Vandenberg.

Trump's Twitter praise for the astronauts did appear to gloss over the fact that NASA is actually paying SpaceX and Boeing to fly American astronauts. Announced today is the initial crew manifest for both the test flight and the first mission each company will undertake. She is a retired Navy captain and test pilot and was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1998.

Tech grad Eric Boe and fellow astronauts Chris Ferguson and Nicole Mann are to crew the Boeing Co.'s Starliner capsule, to be propelled by an Atlas V rocket.

In addition to unveiling the test launch rosters, Bridenstine also revealed the crews of each spacecraft's second flight, which will ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences. Some delays stemmed from launch vehicles, such as SpaceX's September 2016 launchpad explosion of an uncrewed Falcon 9 rocket.

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