NASA Announces First Crew for Commercial Space Travel

Crew Dragon and Starliner A Look at the Coming Astronaut Taxis

Crew Dragon and Starliner A Look at the Coming Astronaut Taxis

NASA on Friday announced the first astronauts who will fly into space on USA -made commercial spacecraft - which will be the agency's first manned missions in years.

Set to command what is scheduled to be NASA's first launch of astronauts from USA soil in seven years is Chris Ferguson, a 56-year-old Philly-born space explorer. 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.

"To work and live in space is just a humbling and incredible blessing in and of itself, and now to have the opportunity to work with these great companies on something that is so important to our nation and to NASA", Glover said.

Ferguson will fly with NASA astronauts Eric Boe, a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, and Nicole Aunapu Mann on the first crewed test flight of Starliner, which is now projected to take place in mid-2019. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement.

These pioneering flights to the International Space Station aboard commercially built crew capsules will be the first leaving United States soil to put people into orbit since the iconic space shuttle program ended in 2011.

"The goal is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations", Nasa said. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight.

Glover will partner with NASA veteran Mike Hopkins, 49, who spent 166 days aboard the space station in 2014, during their mission aboard the Crew Dragon capsule. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force.

Three of the chosen astronauts joined the corps in 2013, which was before the commercial partnership was announced.

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SpaceX's first crew will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins.

The move marks a significant shift in the USA space program, which will now combine NASA-trained astronauts with private sector space capsules.

NASA has named the crew of astronauts tasked with reviving America's prowess in extraterrestrial travel.

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.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch on the company's Falcon 9 rocket.

The Government Accountability Office said in a recent report that Boeing's spacecraft could "tumble" in some abort scenarios, which "could pose a threat to the crew's safety". The crewed demonstration flight, with two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.

But NASA's options may be limited by the worldwide agreements that established the station in 1998.

"The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honor it was for us to be part of this program and for us to fly you", Shotwell told the astronaut crews. "We won't let you down".

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