NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights

Jan Cross
August 5, 2018

"To work and live in space is just a humbling and fantastic 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.

Veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly on SpaceX's first crewed Crew Dragon flight.

The return of crew flights to US soil will end NASA's politically inconvenient reliance on Russian Federation for transporting astronauts to the ISS. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space". NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet NASA's safety and performance requirements.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts from American rockets on American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a televised briefing on Friday. At the time, SpaceX's Crew Dragon (known as Dragon V2 at the time) and Boeing's Starliner (just CST-100 back then) won a four-year competition-and contracts worth billions-to fly astronauts to space.

In addition to naming the crews of the test flights, NASA also announced the four astronauts who will fly aboard the first operational Starliner and Dragon missions to the space station.

The crew assignments came a day after NASA issued new schedules for the uncrewed and crewed test flights, pushing back the flights by several months from earlier schedules.

Following this first trial flight, two pilots will travel in the Starliner to the ISS: Suni Williams, who since he was picked to be an astronaut in 1998 has made seven space flights and has spent more than 322 days in the stratosphere, and Josh Cassada, who has yet to make his first space flight.

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Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies.

"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said in a statement.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew. Boeing's spacecraft CST-100 Starliner is also expected to be reusable and will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann, along with Boeing's company astronaut Christopher Ferguson, will fly on the Boeing Starliner test flight. Boe piloted space shuttle Endeavour and Discovery on its final flight, Ferguson piloted and commanded Atlantis and commanded Endeavour, Hurley piloted Endeavor and Atlantis, and Behnken flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013. He returns to NASA after retiring in 2011.

During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight. Mr. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014.

What makes the mission stand out even more is the fact that Ferguson is retired from NASA and now works for Boeing. The delays could even result in a gap in USA access to the space station, because NASA has contracted for seats on Soyuz only through November 2019, the report found.

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