Nasa names astronauts for first commercial flights

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They will be the first Americans to launch into space from USA soil since NASA's space shuttle program retired in 2011.Since then, the us has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to carry Americans space.

The astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon give a thumbs-up upon introduction at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 3, 2018.

NASA named nine astronauts who will be on the first space flights launched from USA soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

"Through the Commercial Crew program, our astronauts and engineers have been working hand in hand with Boeing and SpaceX companies to develop these first commercial crew vehicles capable of carrying humans into space." said Mark Geyer, the new Director of NASA Johnson Space Center. A new era will be marked with the launch of this proficient group of American astronauts who will be flying on new spacecraft designed and developed by the commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

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Both capsules will fly to the International Space Station on their first crewed test flights, blazing a trail for future crews to ride to and from the orbiting research complex on operational crew rotation missions, ending NASA's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the job. Bob Behnken, a Space Shuttle Endeavour veteran with more than 37 hours of spacewalk experience, and Doug Hurley, who piloted the Endeavour on its July 2009 mission. "We're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil". In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station.

"The first flight is something that you dream about as a test pilot and, you know, you don't think it's ever going to happen to you", he said. The first operational SpaceX Crew will be veteran astronaut Mike Hopkins and first-time flyer Victor Glover.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew.

The astronauts will carry out the first flight tests and missions of two leading Boeing and SpaceX crafts next year, NASA said, with the first test flight of a SpaceX Dragon capsule scheduled for April.

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Williams has already taken two trips to the space station, commanded it, and racked up 322 days in space, second on the all-time list for female astronauts.

"As a test pilot it doesn't get any better than this", Mann told the audience, when asked about being the first to fly a new spacecraft.

The agency on Friday picked Sunita "Suni" Williams to be one of two members to launch on Boeing's upcoming commercial CST-100 Starliner capsule.

Boeing's first crewed Starliner test flight will be flown by NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson in mid-2019. The crewed flight tests will mostly mirror the uncrewed missions, except a flight commander and pilot will be manning each mission once they are ready for a human crew.

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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 United States space agency said in a statement.

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