NASA set to announce astronauts for SpaceX, Boeing missions

James Marshall
August 7, 2018

The first USA astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, waving after being announced, (left to right) Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williamson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on August 3.

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the space shuttles left off in 2011, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

"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.

Both Boeing and SpaceX say their spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner and the Crew Dragon, respectively, will be ready for launch sometime next year. Williams has been assigned to the second flight demo of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.

The announcement is a major development after years of obstacles in sending crews to space.

The coming launches will be the first from American soil since the Space Shuttle's 2011 retirement, according to a NASA news release. "A small investment from the American taxpayer has paid dividends to the point now where space has transformed the lives of not only every American, but every person on the face of the planet in so many ways that people usually don't even recognize it".

Boeing's Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA is not yet certain exactly when the launches will be.

SpaceX's first crewed test flight on the Crew Dragon will be flown by astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in April 2019.

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. These test flights will provide invaluable data on how rockets, ground systems, operations and the spacecraft themselves perform. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000. He's spent almost 29 days in space. It won't be the first time SpaceX trounces Boeing.

SpaceX's crew for the long-duration mission will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins.

More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, Nasa said.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch on the company's Falcon 9 rocket.

The move marks a significant shift in the US space program, which will now combine NASA-trained astronauts with private sector space capsules.

They were two of the four astronauts selected by NASA in July 2015 to be trained to fly commercial crew missions.

Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency.

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration. John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing's Commercial Crew effort, explained that the earliest the company can "confidently" do a manned flight test will be in mid-2019. "We're not going to let you down".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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