These nine American astronauts will make commercial spaceflight history


Crewed test flights will likely occur next spring, with Chris Ferguson, a Boeing vice president who was the commander of the last shuttle mission, Eric Boe, a former shuttle pilot, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a former Navy pilot who will be making her first space flight, onboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.

NASA, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, introduced on 4 August the first USA astronauts who will fly on an American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. NASA worked closely with the companies to engineer both spacecraft.

In a ceremony at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the space agency revealed nine astronauts assigned to the first four crewed flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules.

NASA is announcing which astronauts will fly on the first commercial spaceships, now scheduled for next year.

Eric Boe: Boe was born in Florida and grew up in Atlanta.

Christopher Ferguson is a native of Philadelphia.

Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans.

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The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth.

Three of the chosen astronauts joined the corps in 2013, which was before the commercial partnership was announced.

SpaceX will launch from Kennedy Space Center on board Falcon 9 rockets while Boeing will send its crew capsule up from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets.

Robert Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. Their mission is scheduled for April 2019.

For the past seven years, Nasa astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft - at a cost of some US$80 million a seat.

Doug Hurley: Hurley's hometown is Apalachin, New York.

"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", Mann, a Marine Corps lieutenant who joined NASA in 2013, said during the announcement. He has flown to space twice before this, both on space shuttle missions.

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"Rockets are fun. I'll be ready, I can't wait", Williams said in an interview posted Friday on the International Space Station Facebook page. NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins would fly Dragon's first operational mission to the space station.

After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements.

Josh Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Williams said in Friday's interview that the new mission was "a test pilot's dream". She was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2013. This will be his first spaceflight.

Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown.

Williams is a U.S. Navy captain and is the namesake of the Sunita L. Williams Elementary School in Needham, which is expected to open next year. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq.

Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies.

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Mike Hopkins: Hopkins was raised on a farm near Richland, Missouri, and he has a master's in aerospace engineering. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days.