"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to USA soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.
American astronauts haven't launched from the USA since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades. Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's worldwide partners in the space station at a later date, the agency said.
NASA officials didn't state why a three-person crew would be flying on the Starliner test flight, but the agency announced an agreement earlier this year with Boeing to study turning that crewed test flight into an operational mission in the event of further commercial crew delays.
"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.
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Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who is now a Boeing employee.
In 2015, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams were assigned to the commercial crew program to provide the astronaut's perspective during commercial crew development.
This will be the first trip into space for Mr. Glover, Mr. Cassada and Ms. Mann. He was selected for astronaut candidacy in July 2000 and was assigned to technical duties after two years of training. Williams previously logged 321 days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012. NASA plans the first crewed test for April 2019. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would fly on the first human test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule. NASA has been paying Russian Federation for flights launched from remote Kazakhstan to the ISS ever since, banking on its Commercial Crew Program to develop a cheaper, reliable and safe American-based alternative. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014. The first tests flights are expected to take place within the next few months, into early next year. NASA "has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company", the agency said.
NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences. "So, our investment in American space exploration always pays back ... multiple folds in terms of the human condition", he added.
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Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights.
The two pairs of Nasa crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and worldwide astronauts to be announced at a later date. The two companies have also developed new spacesuits, modified their launch pads and established mission control teams to support the upcoming flights.
The commercial crew program will allow expanded use of the space station.
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