NASA has chosen the "Commercial Crew Nine": the first humans who will go to space on rockets produced by private spaceflight companies. NASA's last space shuttle mission, the STS-135 flight coincidently commanded by Boeing's Ferguson, flew in July 2011.
"This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the crowd. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".
The first United States astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. The astronauts will travel in the new Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. Both have been in the astronaut corps since 2000; combined, the duo has four Space Shuttle missions and more than 58 days of spaceflight between them. They point to the Falcon Heavy, a brand new, much lower-cost heavy-lift rocket developed by SpaceX, and say that NASA could use commercial options like this one to send up pieces of hardware and assemble them in orbit.
NASA has revealed the nine astronauts who will man the first commercial spaceflights, as the U.S. prepares to once again begin launching manned missions after retiring the Space Shuttle. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from US soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.
NASA is announcing which astronauts will fly on the first commercial spaceships, now scheduled for next year. The spacecraft will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket from the Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On Monday, CEO Elon Musk confirmed a report that claimed NASA estimates the firm will be ready for people-carrying space adventures as early as April next year.
The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
Josh Cassada, 45, will fly with Sunita ("Suni") Williams, 52, aboard NASA's first contracted Starliner mission.
The space agency selected eight of its finest active astronauts, plus one retired astronaut, from a wide array of backgrounds. Ms. Williams previously logged 321 days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012. Glover was selected by NASA in 2013, and his mission with SpaceX will mark his first time in space.More news: Sead Kolasinac faces lengthy injury absence
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SpaceX's first NASA mission to the ISS, in turn, will include Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins.
"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said NASA Kennedy Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders.
Boeing is now working through technical issues with its abort and parachute systems.
Team Boeing consists of retired Air Force Col.
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Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the end of 2019. The first flight will be a test flight.
An unmanned Boeing flight test is scheduled for later this year, while the first flight with the crew is expected to take place in mid-2019, NASA said. "We're not going to let you down".