The first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard privately developed and built commercial spacecraft will be announced by NASA today. Boeing said earlier this week it would carry out a test flight of the Starliner vehicle without humans later this year or in early 2019, after it suffered an issue with the capsule's launch abort system during a test in New Mexico in June, according to SpaceNews. Announced today is the initial crew manifest for both the test flight and the first mission each company will undertake.
He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.
Bob Behnken: Behnken was chosen as an astronaut in 2000 and has been to space twice on two shuttle missions.
USA astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station.
Eight current NASA astronauts will fly in four launches: Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner test flight; Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams on the first Starliner mission; Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight; and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins on the Dragon's first mission. In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement.
For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight. American astronauts will be flying American built rockets into space from American soil.
Nasa took the decision after the shuttle retired to turn transportation to low-Earth obit destinations into a service that it could buy.
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He'll be joined by Christoner Ferguson, a retired Navy captain.
Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, who has spent more than 160 days in space, were selected to crew SpaceX's first full mission.
In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking. Bridenstine asked some what they thought about the idea that they might have initially been heading to space from Russian Federation, but will now be on board USA -based launches.
Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets.
"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", Doug Hurley said. She is an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in more than 25 aircraft.
"We're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during the presentation ceremony at the Johnson Space Center of Houston. Williams already spent 322 days on the ISS, as part of Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, has commanded the space station, and performed seven spacewalks.
Crew for each flight will include at least a flight commander and a pilot.