Friday, 14 December, 2018

NASA names astronauts for first manned USA space launches since 2011

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Doris Mccormick | 04 August, 2018, 08:43

They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

The space agency announced that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.

The space agency also confirmed Boeing's plan to put off its first crewed space taxi mission until mid-2019, and geared up to announce who'd be on the first space taxi flights for SpaceX's Crew Dragon as well as Boeing's Starliner.

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, now projected to take place in mid-2019. This will be her first trip to space. "For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

Recent delays have pushed back the first flights of the Starliner and crewed Dragon to 2019, with uncrewed test flights hopefully happening in November for SpaceX or late this year, early next year for Boeing. "The result is that we'll have a better and safer spacecraft", he said.

More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, NASA said.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will be launched on one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets, while Boeing's Starliner will hitch a lift on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5. SpaceX is targeting April 2019 for its crewed demonstration flight, Demo-2.

The announcement is a major development after years of obstacles in sending crews to space.

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Space X's Dragon will be tested by Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will be on the crew for that mission. He flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2008 with fellow Georgia Tech graduates Sandy Magnus and Shane Kimbrough.

"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said in a statement.

The first Boeing trip to the orbiting outpost includes Josh Cassada, who has never been in space before, and Suni Williams, who is one of the most experienced American astronauts in history, having spent a cumulative 321 days in orbit through her career.

It's been a long journey for NASA and its commercial partners to get both crew capsules up and running.

Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.

No NASA astronaut has rocketed into space from American soil since July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, laden with 28,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.

Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".

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