Sunday, 19 August, 2018

NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

Starliner and Crew Dragon NASA released new schedules Aug. 2 for test flights by Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Credit Boeing SpaceX
Kim Reese | 08 August, 2018, 21:32

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Friday (local time) announced the names of the first astronauts to fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, on the other hand, will likely perform two crucial test flights next year, instead of this year as planned.

Today's crew announcement for the SpaceX and Boeing test flights is a major step for NASA's push to restore American crewed access to space from USA soil.

Ferguson will fly with NASA astronauts Eric Boe, a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, and Nicole Aunapu Mann on the first crewed test flight of Starliner, which is now projected to take place in mid-2019.

For SpaceX's test flight, NASA assigned Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both members of several Endeavour and Atlantis missions. In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station.

On board Starliner's first mission will be Nasa veteran Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and experienced space shuttle astronaut, and Josh Cassada, a Navy pilot making his first flight to space.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013. Boeing astronaut, and retired NASA astronaut, Chris Ferguson joins the eight commercial crew astronauts as the first citizen astronaut.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who made the introductions at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on Friday. "After all these years it hasn't gone away". NASA has unveiled the first astronauts to fly on private spaceships built by SpaceX and Boeing, and, just like the original Mercury Seven, NASA's first astronauts announced in 1959, these 21st century space travelers have "the right stuff". The latter as termed by IBM was touted "the first AI companion of human beings in space". "That's a big deal".

Both Boeing and SpaceX are slightly behind schedule when it comes to their crew vehicles. The test flights with crew will take place mid-2019, NASA said. Using American-made spacecrafts and launching from the USA soil is a more affordable option for the US. "We take it seriously". "We're not going to let you down".

SpaceX said it would fly crews by April of next year.

"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said. "We're so close", he said. It has also been paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. We wish NASA luck and hope for the best.

The Starliner flight will be Mann's first journey to space. But it had been working to resolve an issue with its second stage that caused one of its Falcon 9 rockets to explode while it was being fueled ahead of an engine test.

Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets. These nine American astronauts will launch on the first missions from American soil in American spacecraft since the Shuttle program ended in 2011.

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