NASA announces crew for commercial spaceships

Audrey Hill
August 5, 2018

NASA retired its space shuttle fleet that year, and started sending astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, at a cost of $81 million (U.S.) per seat.

Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules - five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.

Former shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, who helmed the final flight of the shuttle Atlantis in 2011, will lead a three-person crew on the first piloted mission of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule. He retired from NASA after commanding the final shuttle mission in 2011, and eventually joined Boeing to help develop Starliner.

NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions.

Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the astronauts during a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The commercial flights will mark the return of crew launches to the U.S., which has not seen humans lift off for space since the end of the iconic space shuttle program seven years ago. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of a year ago, but neither were able to meet that target.

The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.

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Josh Cassada: Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. She was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2013.

Suni Williams: Williams grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. At the time, SpaceX's Crew Dragon (known as Dragon V2 at the time) and Boeing's Starliner (just CST-100 back then) won a four-year competition-and contracts worth billions-to fly astronauts to space. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq.

Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class.

When you think about who's in charge of cutting-edge spaceflight in 2018, SpaceX is probably the first name that comes to mind.

Mike Hopkins: Hopkins was raised on a farm near Richland, Missouri, and he has a master's in aerospace engineering. She has logged 322 days in space. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009.

Mr. Behnken, Mr. Boe, Mr. Hurley and Mr. Williams were named in 2015 as NASA's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.

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.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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