NASA announces crew for commercial spaceships

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NASA on Friday announced the first astronauts who will fly into space on US -made commercial spacecraft - which will be the agency's first manned missions in years.

On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

NASA's schedule for Starliner flights confirmed what a Boeing executive said a day earlier: The first uncrewed mission to the station (Boeing Orbital Flight Test) would take place in late 2018 or early 2019, and the first crewed mission (Boeing Crew Flight Test) would follow five to six months later.

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. American astronauts will be flying American built rockets into space from American soil.

By handing off crew and cargo runs to the space station - which will keep orbiting until at least 2024 - NASA has set its sight on the moon and Mars, developing the Orion capsule and the massive Space Launch System rocket.

With these launches the United States will recover its prominence in the space race after seven years of depending on Russian infrastructure to send its astronauts into space.

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More astronauts will be announced to join the crews at a later date, NASA said. Boeing said earlier this week it would carry out a test flight of the Starliner vehicle without humans later this year or in early 2019, after it suffered an issue with the capsule's launch abort system during a test in New Mexico in June, according to SpaceNews. Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to fly Crew Dragon for the first time in April 2019.

SpaceX and Boeing's new spacecraft are shaping up to be two solutions to that problem.

Astronaut Doug Hurley, who will be on the Space X test flight, hinted at the delays when he noted at Friday's Johnson Space Center announcement: "The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot, and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you".

She once held the record for total number of spacewalks conducted by a woman (7 walks) and most spacewalk time for a female (50 hours, 40 minutes) during her time on the International Space Station. The race to get astronauts to the space station first is real; a US flag that flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the last shuttle flight in 2011, awaits the victor. SpaceX's first operational flight to the space station will also be Glover's first flight to space. Crew members have worked years with companies to get here and they said they can not wait for the flights to begin next year. (BA) to the punch when it comes to flying astronauts to the International Space Station.

Besides Ferguson and Mann, the initial commercial crew members are: Eric Boe, Sunita Williams and John Cassada riding on Boeing.

Since the shuttle was retired seven years ago, US astronauts have had to fly on Russian rockets from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan. It will ride atop a Falcon-9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center.

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