NASA to announce which astronauts will fly on first commercial spaceships

1st Crewed Flights of Private Space Taxis Slip to 2019

NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station

Leading up to the a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the space agency, saying: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".

"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back, that we are flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", Bridenstine said in Houston. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

SpaceX's four-member crew consists of Air Force flight test engineer Bob Behnken and retired Marine Corps test pilot Doug Hurley, tasked with the Dragon's demo flight scheduled for April 2019; Dragon's first mission will be flown by Navy test pilot Victor Glover and the Air Force's Mike Hopkins.

Both the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner are created to take over this task and provide ISS rides to NASA astronauts via a "space taxi" service.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", read the agency's statement.

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Williams has already taken two trips to the space station, commanded it, and racked up 322 days in space, second on the all-time list for female astronauts. SpaceX and Boeing were picked by NASA in 2014 to develop spacecrafts to return that capability to the United States, and both companies are slated to launch their first crewed missions in the next year.

When test flights do launch, Boeing's flight is dubbed Orbital Flight Test followed by Crew Flight Test. SpaceX's first flight is dubbed Demonstration Mission 1 followed by Demonstration Mission 2.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew. Space X, the private space company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk put out Dragon as the first private aircraft to berth with the ISS.

Josh Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, and Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and test pilot, will fly the Boeing-built spacecraft for its initial crewed mission to the orbiting laboratory.

The program's core goals are to get an American-made ships able reach the International Space Station (ISS), plus reduce or eliminate USA reliance on Russia's ever-more-expensive Soyuz spaceships to get there.

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The setback means the first crewed test flight will be pushed back to the middle of 2019, he said.

The seven men and two women will also be the first astronauts to fly in capsules developed and built by the private sector as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights.

NASA's response to GAO's warnings about a potential gap in having US astronauts aboard ISS is that it is "brainstorming" options.

For Crew Dragon, the now confirmed crew includes Navy commander, aviator, and test pilot Victor Glover. Ferguson is the veteran of three space shuttle missions. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks. It may also include Russia, as NASA officials have discussed in the past flying Russian cosmonauts on commercial crew vehicles, possibly in exchange for seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

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