NASA Taps Georgia Tech Alumnus for Historic Space Mission

NASA Taps Georgia Tech Alumnus for Historic Space Mission

NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions.

Recent delays have pushed back the first flights of the Starliner and crewed Dragon to 2019, with uncrewed test flights hopefully happening in November for SpaceX or late this year, early next year for Boeing.

More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, NASA said.

"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight", said Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA has always been working on its commercial crew programme, helping to accelerate private companies' spaceflight capabilities while it focuses its own efforts on other space exploration projects, such as the Space Launch System slated to launch in 2020.

And astronauts will fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner sometime after that, in the middle of 2019. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann are slated for the test flight of Boeing's Starliner, accompanied by former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who now works as a commercial astronaut for Boeing.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space.

Nikki Haley Slams Russia for Violating North Korea Sanctions
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USA astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, an experienced spacewalker who flew on two shuttle missions, will strap into the Crew Dragon alongside former shuttle pilot Doug Hurley. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of a year ago, but neither were able to meet that target.

Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of a NASA astronaut flying with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsules. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011.

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

The first full mission of Boeing's Starliner, which will fly to the ISS for a long-duration stay, will take ISS veteran Suni Williams and spaceflight newcomer Josh Cassada. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

The Government Accountability Office recently issued a warning to NASA that it needs to have a contingency plan in place to ensure continued access to the space station, which costs the United States about $3 billion annually.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.

NASA has just updated its schedule for commercial crew. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".

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