NASA Taps Astronauts for Commercial Flights

07 Août, 2018, 12:56 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Sunita Williams

NASA on Friday announced the crews of the first flights from US soil since the space shuttle retired in 2011, an elite group of astronauts that the agency hopes will help open a new era of space travel.

Ferguson isn't now a NASA employee, though he served as an astronaut from 1998 to 2011 and commanded the final Space Shuttle mission.

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.

NASA made the announcement today (Aug. 3) here at the Johnson Space Center, with the agency revealing the eight agency astronauts and one Boeing astronaut before a cheering crowd of lawmakers, dignitaries and kids waving signs and American flags.

NASA, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, introduced on 4 August the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on an American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. 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. The group includes former space shuttle flyers, ex-military test pilots, rookies, and - critically - a cadre of four astronauts who've already been testing and providing feedback on the new commercial ships for years.

NASA says commercial transportation to and from the space stations will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory.

No NASA astronaut has rocketed into space from American soil since July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, laden with 28,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.

Williams has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station since becoming an astronaut in 1998. Boeing's spacecraft CST-100 Starliner is also expected to be reusable and will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

NASA is not yet certain exactly when the launches will be.

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Veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly on SpaceX's first crewed Crew Dragon flight.

Sunita Williams, the 52-year-old Indian-origin astronaut, will fly on Starliner's first mission with Josh Cassada. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force.

Boe was selected as an astronaut in 2000. Glover was selected by NASA in 2013, and his mission with SpaceX will mark his first time in space. For the first actual Crew Dragon mission, Victor Glover will undertake his first spaceflight alongside seasoned astronaut Michael Hopkins, who has spent 166 days aboard the space station.

After the ending of space shuttle program in 2011, NASA astronauts were travelling to the ISS aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

The team consists of men and women from across America.

Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets.

Recently, issues relating to NASA's certification process for crewed missions came under review by the US Government Accountability Office. It now looks like SpaceX will be the first to launch humans on its crew Dragon spacecraft, set for April 2019.

The goal is vital for NASA's future space station experiments. "We won't let you down".

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