NASA selects 9 astronauts for first crewed Boeing, SpaceX missions

NASA on Friday announced the crews of the first flights from USA 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.

United States astronauts have been relying on Russian capsules to travel to the space station, with each seat costing NASA as much as $82 million (€71 million).

NASA was established by the federal government during the Cold War to project American prestige and beat the Soviets, all in the name of space science.

NASA is working with Space-X and Boeing to develop a spacecraft that will travel to and from the International Space Station. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

Former chief astronaut Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - who served as co-pilot on the final shuttle mission - will fly on SpaceX's Dragon during its first manned flight. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who made the introductions at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on Friday. American astronauts will be flying American built rockets into space from American soil.

Several of the selected astronauts are shuttle program veterans. SpaceX has leased NASA's historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida to launch Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would fly on the first human test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule.

Josh Cassada: Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.


"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said. It will be Mr. Cassada's first spaceflight. At the time, SpaceX's Crew Dragon (known as Dragon V2 at the time) and Boeing's Starliner (just CST-100 back then) won a four-year competition-and contracts worth billions-to fly astronauts to space.

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

"As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this", said Mann, a Naval aviator. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq. She's no stranger to high-speed flight, however, being an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours across over 25 aircraft. Eric Boe, retired Navy Capt.

Mike Hopkins: Hopkins was raised on a farm near Richland, Missouri, and he has a master's in aerospace engineering.

Williams has spent 322 days in space as part of two expeditions: 14/15 and 32/33. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009.

The announcement of crew for these first four flights is a nice morale booster for the Commercial Crew program, but there's still a long way to go.

Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date.

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.


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