Meet NASA's new astronauts

Muriel Hammond
August 4, 2018

The first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard privately developed and built commercial spacecraft will be announced by NASA today.

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

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, said.

Friday, NASA said that if unmanned test flights go smoothly, the group of nine astronauts will fly before then, on the first test flight and mission of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who's now a Boeing employee. He will be joined by Eric Boe, who flew on two shuttle missions and was another astronaut selected for commercial crew training in 2015, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a member of the astronaut class of 2013 who will be making her first flight.

Leading up to the ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the agency: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".

The new spaceflight capability provided by Boeing and SpaceX will allow NASA to maintain a crew of seven astronauts on the space station, thereby maximizing scientific research that leads to breakthroughs and also aids in understanding and mitigating the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. Many spacecraft, including Crew Dragon and Starliner, use hypergolic propellant for abort engines because it ignites on contact and is a good choice for quickly blasting a crew capsule away from a failing rocket.


Trump's Twitter praise for the astronauts did appear to gloss over the fact that NASA is actually paying SpaceX and Boeing to fly American astronauts.

"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 SpaceX Dragon capsule, on current timelines, is set to make its maiden crewed flight in April. NASA is working with Space X and Boeing to develop the spacecraft. The astronauts are (L to R): Victor Glover, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins, Douglas Hurley, Eric Boe, Sunita Williams, Christopher Ferguson, Josh Cassada, and Nicole Mann. His second flight as a pilot was the final scheduled flight of the Discovery - the third-to-last flight of the NASA Space Shuttle Program.

But both companies have faced a series of setbacks and delays, and on Thursday the agency announced additional schedule slips. The Crew Dragon will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

She once held the record for total number of spacewalks conducted by a woman (7 walks) and most spacewalk time for a female (50 hours, 40 minutes) during her time on the International Space Station.

Since 2011, the United States has relied on Russian Federation to ferry astronauts to the space station.

Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

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