NASA announces crew for the first American spacecraft launches since 2011

Starliner and Crew Dragon

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation". He has a master's degree in physics and is a US Navy test pilot who has served in more than 20 combat missions.

The first US 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.

"We are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA posted on Twitter, quoting Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the Launch America announcement. Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the National Space Council that has helped shape the Trump administration's space policies, also weighed in. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles. Bob Behnken of the Air Force and Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

Josh Cassada - Navy Commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft, due for his first trip to space.

"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann. Now the pair will be among those who usher in a new era for NASA.

"As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this", said Mann, a Naval aviator.

On Friday, NASA announced names of the nine astronauts who will fly in the first manned space flight missions of Dragon in the United States.

The space agency selected eight of its finest active astronauts, plus one retired astronaut, from a wide array of backgrounds. Musk confirmed that the company will have the Crew Dragon capsule hardware ready to go by this date. "Thank you very much-we take it seriously, and we won't let you down".

Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, whose grandfather was Estonian, is due to take her first space flight onboard the Boeing Starliner in 2019.

After the ending of space shuttle program in 2011, NASA astronauts were travelling to the ISS aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

Some of the newly named crew, like Cassada, joined NASA expecting to fly on Soyuz spacecraft before any new American ship.

For Crew Dragon, the now confirmed crew includes Navy commander, aviator, and test pilot Victor Glover. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time.

Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who has worked with Boeing as it developed its Starliner spacecraft, will fly as a private astronaut. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are also working with Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas company that intends to launch private space stations into orbit, to be leased to nations or companies.

"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said NASA Kennedy Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders.

The space agency has reason to be eager.

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. While some NASA astronauts are military officers, NASA itself is a civilian space exploration agency.

The astronauts named today (see the full list below) are tasked with those missions, all four of which are slated to happen sometime in 2019.

SpaceX, however, did move up the uncrewed test flight of its Dragon spacecraft from December to November of this year. Boeing most recently suffered a problem while testing its emergency abort system and its first test flight won't be until at least mid-2019.

The companies are running out of buffer. (ISS), disbursing $80 million for a single seat. If any further delays creep up, NASA's astronauts may be temporarily stranded on Earth. The tweet's second sentence seems to suggest that Boeing and SpaceX are paying the government to fly the missions. While few believed that was realistic, today's official change underscores that a potential gap in USA access to ISS is looming.

"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back", he said. "We won't let you down".

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