NASA assigns astronauts to first commercial crew missions

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to USA soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.

The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the USA space agency said.

NASA's schedule for Starliner flights confirmed what a Boeing executive said a day earlier: The first uncrewed mission to the station (Boeing Orbital Flight Test) would take place in late 2018 or early 2019, and the first crewed mission (Boeing Crew Flight Test) would follow five to six months later.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL - JUNE 19: Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems and former NASA astronaut, along with NASA astronaut Suni Williams, practice the emergency egress system training from the Crew access tower at Launch Complex 41 at Kennedy Space Center. "Once again, we'll be launching to and from the International Space Station from American soil on American spacecraft".




The two astronauts that the SpaceX company will send later will be Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in the space lab, and Victor Glover, who will be making his debut. He joined NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut, and piloted the space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127. Both SpaceX and Boeing were supposed to clear this hurdle previous year, but Boeing is now likely to win certification in January, with SpaceX following it the next month. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011.

Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams were named in 2015 as Nasa's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Therefore, it's essential that Crew Dragon and Starliner be ready for operational flights by the 2020 deadline. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force. SpaceX's manned test flight will feature two NASA astronauts. At first, it seemed like a logical idea - private space enterprises are rapidly becoming all the rage in the United States and beyond, with more than one private company already planning their own space stations for the decades to come. "The person who could do a spacewalk, do some robotics, had a test background if that was required for the mission at hand, and so really looking for a crew member that touches all those bases was really critical going forward", Behnken said. Williams previously logged 321 days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012. The two companies have also developed new spacesuits, modified their launch pads and established mission control teams to support the upcoming flights.

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