Commercial astronauts named | Tech

NASA Spruces Up Astronauts Digs Ahead of Commercial Launches

One of three suit containment rooms where astronauts once got and will again get dressed for their visits to space. Credit Kim Shiflett NASA

The first US astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, waving after being announced, (left to right) Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williamson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on August 3. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory.

Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules - five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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. 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. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon. "We had our quarterly [review] this week, and for the first time in years, it felt real".

Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who has spent 166 days on the space station in the past, and who also went on two spacewalks.

"Once you get into the spacecraft, you're on your way, you've got a mission, you're focused, and it's really exciting", she said.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to USA soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.

Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, who has spent more than 160 days in space, were selected to crew SpaceX's first full mission.

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University officials and campus police will also try to improve protocols for responding to calls for assistance, she said. Kanoute, who filmed their exchange and put the video on Facebook , nervously responded: 'I was just eating my lunch'.

NASA is not yet certain exactly when the launches will be.

"I'm sure there's at least one Russian-language instructor out there who thinks that having me fly in a US vehicle is not a bad idea", quipped Cassada.

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.

Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams will carry out the first regular mission of Starliner spacecraft. NASA also selected crew members to fly on SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle.

The crews will be split between two of the commercial projects NASA is counting on to make space travel more accessible and, vitally, more affordable.

For SpaceX, a demonstration flight with no passengers is set for November 2018, and the first manned flight set for April 2019.

NASA officials didn't state why a three-person crew would be flying on the Starliner test flight, but the agency announced an agreement earlier this year with Boeing to study turning that crewed test flight into an operational mission in the event of further commercial crew delays. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.

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