American astronauts haven't launched from the USA since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station". American astronauts will be flying American built rockets into space from American soil.
Leading up to the ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the agency: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".
Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson, who commanded NASA's last space shuttle mission in 2011, appears to be a sure thing for the first Starliner crew, based on advance reports.
The first commercial crew astronauts From left: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. Ever since the Space Shuttle Program ended, American astronauts have been paying for seats on Russia's Soyuz capsules to make it to the International Space Station where they live and work for a span of six months. "Falcon 9's first and second stages for the Demo-1 mission are targeted to ship from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California to the company's rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas for additional testing in August", NASA said.
Behnken, Boe, Hurley and 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.
For SpaceX, a demonstration flight with no passengers is set for November 2018, and the first manned flight set for April 2019. SpaceX will launch the Crew Dragon, while Boeing will launch its CST-100 Starliner. However, a NASA spokesman said that does not guarantee those four astronauts will be assigned to an actual mission. They're both the result of NASA's Commercial Crew Program: a almost 10-year-long, $8-billion effort to maintain access to orbit for U.S. astronauts.
SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight. Hopkins was a member of Expedition 37 and 38 in 2013 and 2014. 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.
All around the world (and even in space), astronauts and non-astronauts alike continue to show their excitement and support for the talented individuals chosen for these groundbreaking missions. The two companies have also developed new spacesuits, modified their launch pads and established mission control teams to support the upcoming flights.
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