NASA names new crews for space travel

Jan Cross
August 4, 2018

"What an exciting and awesome day", Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said at the announcement at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA named nine astronauts who will be on the first space flights launched from United States soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

NASA will announce Friday morning the names of the first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.

The crew of the Boeing Starliner's first test flight will be NASA astronaut Eric Boe, a retired Air Force colonel who flew on two space shuttle missions; Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, a former Navy captain and NASA astronaut who flew three shuttle missions, including the final mission in 2011; and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann who will make her first spaceflight after a career as a Marine corps lieutenant colonel, fighter pilot and test pilot. And Nasa also named the astronauts for those flights as well.

On the left, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, fully suited in SpaceX's spacesuit, uses the display inside a mock-up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorne, Calif., during a testing exercise on April 3.

No NASA astronaut has rocketed into space from American soil since July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, laden with 28,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.

Bob Behnken, who was a mission specialist on two separate shuttle flights, expressed a deep respect for the old spacecraft.

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It is on the subsequent missions that the crew capsules will head to the space station and dock.

"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

And astronauts will fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner sometime after that, in the middle of 2019. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station". The first Crew Dragon post-certification mission will be flown by Victor Glover, another rookie astronaut selected in 2013, and Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days on one station mission. While both companies had recently said they would conduct their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019.

SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the station, the orbiting laboratory. While she was there in 2007, she completed the Boston Marathon - on a treadmill - in 4 hours 24 minutes, marking the first time an entrant had finished the race from orbit.

The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.

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