NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

NASA names astronauts for first commercial space flights

On the first human test flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, NASA selected astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann to join Boeing executive Chris Ferguson.

Boeing has leased two of NASA's old space shuttle hangars at KSC, known as Orbiter Processing Facilities, to build its Starliners and house two small robotic X-37B space planes it built for the Air Force. Boe will be making his third trip to space.

The eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station beginning in 2019.

For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight.

"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann. While some NASA astronauts are military officers, NASA itself is a civilian space exploration agency. "We take it seriously".

Josh Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, and Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and test pilot, will fly the Boeing-built spacecraft for its initial crewed mission to the orbiting laboratory.

NASA ended the shuttle program seven years ago after 135 missions as the space agency shifted its priorities to developing hardware for deep space travel. Journey on one of the last shuttle missions to witness some final "firsts" made aboard this unique spacecraft. "Williams" family is upbeat about her space hat-trick. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time. If all goes as planned, he could make history as the first private citizen to launch to orbit on a commercially operated space craft. "That's going to help all of us understand how to live and work in space". 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.

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From left to right: NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins. He's performed six spacewalks totaling almost 40 hours.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station.

The space agency has reason to be eager. Mann will also make history as the first female astronaut on the inaugural crewed flight of a new USA spacecraft.

Despite the fanfare around Friday's presentation, the Commercial Crew program has endured years of delays.

While NASA didn't require uncrewed flight tests, both companies will be shooting them off to the ISS anyway, because you can never be too positive things won't glitch once you're 1,200 miles beyond Earth's atmosphere. SpaceX aims to launch an uncrewed test flight in November of this year, with a Boeing test flight scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019.

Boeing is now working through technical issues with its abort and parachute systems.

Boeing has since identified the problem, he said, and is working to fix it. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009.

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