NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

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.

The astronauts were divided into smaller crews assigned to work on test flights and first missions to the global space station.

"To work and live in space is just a humbling and awesome blessing in and of itself, and now to have the opportunity to work with these great companies on something that is so important to our nation and to NASA", Glover said. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.

It could be the first time the nation has sent astronauts to space from US soil since 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle Atlantis and Ferguson was the last person to step off the shuttle.

The missions are expected to take the astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Boeing's Starliner will soar on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets.

The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

Glover will partner with NASA veteran Mike Hopkins, 49, who spent 166 days aboard the space station in 2014, during their mission aboard the Crew Dragon capsule. The test flight with crew is scheduled for mid-2019.

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Victor Glover: Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 after a career in the Navy as a test pilot. He's spent almost 29 days in space. "We had our quarterly [review] this week, and for the first time in years, it felt real". SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year.

In an interview, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine compared the crews to the Mercury astronauts, the seven test pilots featured in "The Right Stuff", who flew at the dawn of the Space Age. It may also include Russia, as NASA officials have discussed in the past flying Russian cosmonauts on commercial crew vehicles, possibly in exchange for seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

When the Starliner approaches the International Space Station, the docking will be fully autonomous as the spacecraft manoeuvres toward an adapted docking port for commercial spacecraft.

The two pairs of NASA crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and worldwide astronauts to be announced at a later date.

The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth. 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.

The crew missions have been delayed repeatedly because of the technical challenges and difficulties of making spacecraft safe for humans.

The goal now is to complete the certification for sending humans to space in 2019. Williams has the most diverse space background of the astronauts named today, having flown on both the shuttle and Soyuz and served aboard the International Space Station for two long-duration expeditions in 2006 through 2007 and 2012. "We won't let you down".

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