In addition to unveiling the test launch rosters, Bridenstine also revealed the crews of each spacecraft's second flight, which will ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The endeavour will return astronaut launches to USA soil for the first time since the country retired its aging space shuttles in 2011. Ferguson, the Boeing astronaut, flew three shuttle missions, and has logged more than 40 days in space. Since then, the space agency has turned to private space firms, like SpaceX, to oversee cargo runs to the ISS, while sending USA astronauts there on Russian rockets.
"We are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA posted on Twitter, quoting Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the Launch America announcement. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight". Among the three astronauts selected for Boeing's Starliner test flight is Nicole Aunapu Mann - a California native whose grandfather, Helmuth Aunapu, emigrated to the United States from Estonia just before the Second World War. Bob Behnken of the Air Force and Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel.
Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts.
For SpaceX's Crew Dragon, the uncrewed mission has been designated Demo-1, and it will take off with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket from Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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Of the four crews named, two will launch test flight missions and two crews will launch to the International Space Station where they will live and work in space before returning to Earth in the crew vehicles.
They will be accompanied by Nicole Aunapu Mann who will make her first trip to space, and the experienced Sunita Williams, former pilot of the US Navy (52 years). Journey on one of the last shuttle missions to witness some final "firsts" made aboard this unique spacecraft.
More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, Nasa said. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by the middle of next year.
Williams has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station since becoming an astronaut in 1998.
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For SpaceX, a demonstration flight with no passengers is set for November 2018, and the first manned flight set for April 2019.
Victor Glover is from Pomona, California. Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams will crew the Starliner's first mission, while Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly aboard the Crew Dragon first mission. If any further delays creep up, NASA's astronauts may be temporarily stranded on Earth.
Mike Hopkins: Hopkins was raised on a farm near Richland, Missouri, and he has a master's in aerospace engineering. The capsules, made by SpaceX and Boeing, will ferry the astronauts and cargo back and forth to the International Space Station.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA on Friday assigned the astronauts who will ride the first commercial capsules into orbit next year and bring crew launches back to the U.S.
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