First commercial crew astronauts named for SpaceX and Boeing flights

Carlton Robbins
August 8, 2018

NASA named the crews for the first four flights planned with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX at a Friday news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The vessels, the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner, have been developed with billions of dollars in funding from NASA, which has contracted SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to make cargo deliveries to the space station since 2012.

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.

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme from the USA soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

These US astronauts previously flew aboard Russian spacecraft to get to the ISS.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, was on hand at NASA's Johnson Space Center to announce the nine new commercial crew astronauts. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

SpaceX's first crew will include naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins. Mann is a U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and pilot of the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, while Boe is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who was a test pilot on the Boeing F-15.

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NASA has worked closely with Boeing and SpaceX to design, develop, and test their spacecraft and systems to ensure they are safe. In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station.

The astronauts assigned to the Starliner's first mission are Sunita Williams, who retired as a Navy captain, and Cmdr.

The research taking place on the International Space Station is providing valuable information and breakthroughs for life on the ground.

"This was above and beyond the NASA requirement in the contract", said NASA Kennedy Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders. She was selected as an astronaut in 1998, and went on spend 322 days aboard the ISS, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks. Last week, the agency announced it expects SpaceX to complete an uncrewed test flight in November 2018, followed by a crewed flight in April 2019. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks.

Victor Glover is from Pomona, California.

President Donald Trump fired off a celebratory tweet today to laud NASA's first astronaut crews to fly on private spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX, a message that also appeared to hail the president's proposed military Space Force.

NASA has chosen Northeast Philly native and Drexel grad Chris Ferguson to lead crew members on a first-of-its-kind journey to the International Space Station next year. The Dragon capsule was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 29 and landed at the space station on July 2.

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