NASA set to announce astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

NASA set to announce astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

NASA set to announce astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

SpaceX's four-member crew consists of Air Force flight test engineer Bob Behnken and retired Marine Corps test pilot Doug Hurley, tasked with the Dragon's demo flight scheduled for April 2019; Dragon's first mission will be flown by Navy test pilot Victor Glover and the Air Force's Mike Hopkins. Suni Williams, who is best known for running the Boston Marathon on an ISS treadmill, will be joined by rookie astronaut Josh Cassada.

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

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced eight current NASA astronauts, several of whom have been to space before, as well as bringing a ninth former astronaut who now works for Boeing on stage.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space. And Nasa also named the astronauts for those flights as well. He is a retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135.

Since then, astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport them to and from the orbiting space station.

The two companies are planning for a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early next year, with the first crews hoping to fly from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer. Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts. Nicole Aunapu Mann will be making her first flight; she completed her astronaut training in 2015.

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Space X's Dragon will be tested by Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will be on the crew for that mission. The agency has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company.

Just days before the launch of the final space shuttle mission, Philadelphia native Chris Ferguson, the commander, was asked what it felt like to be a part of the historic flight. He returns to NASA after retiring in 2011.

Clockwise from top left: Sunita Williams, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Eric Boe. I've watched people and teams come together these last few years, and now we're getting close to space flight.

The astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon give a thumbs-up upon introduction at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Aug. 3, 2018. As a naval aviator, she flew combat missions during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom before becoming a naval test pilot.

The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by the middle of next year. When he was in high school, Ferguson became "intrigued" with joining the Navy and flying jets, he said.

The announcement signals a milestone in the United States space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

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