The space agency assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and the mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. "For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".
"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", Bridenstine said in Houston. The first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard privately developed and built commercial spacecraft will be announced by NASA today.
NASA made the announcement today (Aug. 3) here at the Johnson Space Center, with the agency revealing the eight agency astronauts and one Boeing astronaut before a cheering crowd of lawmakers, dignitaries and kids waving signs and American flags.
The Crew Dragon missions will pave the way for SpaceX's more ambitious projects, like sending the first humans to Mars as early as 2024.
The Boeing Starliner test flight will see the craft launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, from Cape Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.
More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, NASA said.
SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year.
Since then, they have been in a race to see which company would fly first in what's become a sort of modern-day space race.
Josh Cassada: Coming to NASA after a career as a test pilot in the Navy, Cassada was chosen as an astronaut in 2013.
Mr. Behnken, Mr. Hurley, Mr. Boe and Ms. Mann are NASA's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new US spacecraft since the March 1978 announcement of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews.
An engine flaw discovered during a launchpad test of Boeing's Starliner spaceship, created to carry humans to the International Space Station, has delayed its first crew test flight until next year. Boe piloted space shuttle Endeavour and Discovery on its final flight, Ferguson piloted and commanded Atlantis and commanded Endeavour, Hurley piloted Endeavor and Atlantis, and Behnken flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice.
Since 2011, the United States has relied on Russian Federation to ferry astronauts to the space station.
The hope is that the new crew pods will be certified before NASA's contract with Russian Federation expires, so that USA astronauts will continue to have a ride to work.
"I'm sure there's at least one Russian-language instructor out there who thinks that having me fly in a USA vehicle is not a bad idea", quipped Cassada. Mr. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot.
NASA says that its astronauts will be joined by other global crew members, to be announced later on. The first flight will be a test flight.
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