Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA names astronauts for first manned U.S. space launches since 2011

NASA names astronauts for first manned U.S. space launches since 2011

In a ceremony at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the space agency revealed nine astronauts assigned to the first four crewed flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules. It will be fun and adventurous to see the astronauts take off from American soil and worth a wait to see them aboard the International Space Station.

On the test flight for the Starliner will be: Eric Boe, a former space shuttle pilot who retired from the Air Force; Christopher Ferguson, a Boeing astronaut who left NASA in 2011; and Lt. Col. Nicole Mann of the Marine Corps.

NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted.

NASA named nine astronauts who will be on the first space flights launched from U.S. soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight", Mr. Bridenstine said.

Once the Starliner and Dragon capsules are operational, NASA will no longer need to rely on Russia's Soyuz rocket and spacecraft to launch astronauts into low-Earth orbit. Ferguson is a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander who now works on Boeing's Starliner program.

Eric Boe was a NASA astronaut and space shuttle pilot.

Robotic flight controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station's robotic arm at 12:38 p.m. EDT, and Expedition 56 Serena Auñon-Chancellor of NASA is monitoring its departure.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you, and it looks like it might", Hurley said, to which Bridenstine said, "Oh it better". The first operational SpaceX Crew will be veteran astronaut Mike Hopkins and first-time flyer Victor Glover.

NASA assigns crews to first test flights, missions on commercial spacecraft

Since the shuttle was retired seven years ago, American astronauts have had to fly on Russian rockets from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan.

For SpaceX, the Crew Dragon test flight astronauts are spaceflight veterans, Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley. He will be joined by Victor Glover, a Navy commander who will be making his first trip into space.

United Launch Alliance is also involved in the forthcoming launch of NASA's Parker Solar Probe. That followed his 1983 graduation from Henderson High School, in Chamblee, and his 1987 bachelor of science degree in astronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy - a degree he earned with both distinction and honors, according to his resume on nasa.gov.

52-year-old Williams will be accompanied by Josh Cassada, 45, on NASA's first contracted Starliner mission. He joined the astronaut corps in 2000 and flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice, for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks totaling more than 37 hours. Each company will also conduct an unscrewed test mission prior to the test flights.

In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing received contracts for $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to develop space capsules that can ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

The Indian-origin astronaut, Williams, is named for the Boeing programme to the International Space Centre (ISS). NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of past year, but neither were able to meet that target.

The agency said more crew members will be announced later. But it had been working to resolve an issue with its second stage that caused one of its Falcon 9 rockets to explode while it was being fueled ahead of an engine test.


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