NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

NASA Spruces Up Astronauts Digs Ahead of Commercial Launches

NASA Spruces Up Astronauts Digs Ahead of Commercial Launches

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.

Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks, the U.S. space agency said in a statement. The agency landed on the Commercial Crew program, which would see Boeing and SpaceX build new vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the space station. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

There are four flights in all-two each for SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner vehicle-scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) throughout 2019 once uncrewed test flights are complete.

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the space station will include NASA astronaut and Navy test pilot Victor Glover, who has logged more than 3,000 hours flying 40 different aircraft and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who has logged 166 days in space so far. He flew on a Space Shuttle Endeavour mission in 2008 and a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 2011. A NASA press release says more crew members may be added to those flights later.

"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", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said as he unveiled the crew members in Houston, Texas.

Their voyages are scheduled to begin next year, and they would be the first American astronauts to launch from USA soil since 2011.

The announcement signals a milestone in the United States space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.

NASA has worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX to design, develop, and test their spacecraft and systems to ensure they are safe. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.

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Now five years later, Cassada will become a part of history as he travels to space for the first time in commercial spacecrafts by Boeing and SpaceX.

Even before the end of the shuttle program, NASA got to work to find a replacement. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force.

Glover, a father of four, was serving as a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate when he joined NASA in 2013 - beating out a field of more than 6,100 applicants.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, on current timelines, is set to make its maiden crewed flight in April. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq.

Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies.

Williams said in Friday's interview that the new mission was "a test pilot's dream".

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office said that further delays in NASA's "Commercial Crew" program could "disrupt access" to the space station, which would be an enormous embarrassment for NASA after investing about $100 billion to build and operate it.

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