NASA Announces First Crew for Commercial Space Travel

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"This is truly an exciting time for human spaceflight in our nation", Robert Cabana, a former astronaut and director of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

Countries have been launching their astronauts from Russia for a long while now, as the Russian Soyuz is currently the only spacecraft that can send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Now, we know the names of those launches' first passengers.

"This is a big deal for our country", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in front of an enormous US flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston during a ceremony punctuated by raucous cheers. "We're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.

According to NASA, flying on the first crewed test flight of Boeing Space's "Starliner" spacecraft, which is set to lift off in mid-2019, will be Eric Boe, Nicole Mann and Christopher Ferguson.

What's even more interesting is that NASA has finally designated a victor in the space race between SpaceX and Boeing, notes Fortune. He began his career with the Air Force, and served as a fighter pilot, test pilot and colonel.

Boe is a former shuttle pilot; Mann will be making her first trip into space.

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"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann.

"I'm just grateful to help usher in this new era of American spaceflight", Ferguson told the crowd.

SpaceX's first test launch will ferry NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into space. Hurley is a retired Marine Corps colonel and test pilot who has also piloted space shuttles Endeavor and Atlantis. Musk confirmed that the company will have the Crew Dragon capsule hardware ready to go by this date. "We take it seriously".

On Friday, NASA revealed the nine astronauts that will fly on Boeing and SpaceX's first crewed launches.

Josh Cassada: Coming to NASA after a career as a test pilot in the Navy, Cassada was chosen as an astronaut in 2013.

Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first.

Lawmakers in Congress, however, insisted that NASA still needed to develop its own rocket and space capsule, called the Space Launch System. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time.

Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon. 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 USA from Estonia just before the Second World War. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days.

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SpaceX said it would fly crews by April.

The space agency has reason to be eager. In any case, SpaceX is now the presumed leader of the race to capture the flag left on the station by the final space shuttle crew-a flag that has been waiting to return to Earth for eight years and counting.

Most have previous experience in orbit.

When approved, each company is slated for six missions to the space station between 2019 and 2024, a total of 12 missions between the two companies.

The announcement can be seen on NASA TV and streamed on NASA's Facebook.

Boeing has since identified the problem, he said, and is working to fix it. NASA already said that it is looking into that for Boeing's test flight. NASA now has a contract to use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that expires on November 2019, and the agency plans to use Boeing or SpaceX to fill the gap. SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year.

The companies are running out of buffer.

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