NASA Introduces Nine Astronauts for First Commercial Flights

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The four designated crews, one for each of the spacecraft's first two missions, will embark on a new era of space travel, being the first astronauts to take off from U.S soil since 2011, when the space agency retired its Space Shuttle Program.

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme from the USA soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

The new spaceflight capability provided by Boeing and SpaceX will allow NASA to maintain a crew of seven astronauts on the space station, thereby maximizing scientific research that leads to breakthroughs and also aids in understanding and mitigating the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. - Alan Shepard, John Young are some of America's first explorers into the great unknown, but Friday NASA will announce who will be America's next space pioneers.

Boe, a Miami native, was selected to the astronaut corps in 2000 and flew as pilot on Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and as part of Space Shuttle Discovery's final flight, STS-133.

What's even more interesting is that NASA has finally designated a victor in the space race between SpaceX and Boeing, notes Fortune.

The astronauts - named at a buoyant event held at Johnson Space Center in Houston - will be the first to launch from US soil since NASA retired its space shuttle programin 2011.

"It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the International Space Station", Mr. Geyer said. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley would fly on the first human test flight of SpaceX's Dragon capsule.

Since then, they have been in a race to see which company would fly first in what's become a sort of modern-day space race.

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

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The setback means the first crewed test flight will be pushed back to the middle of 2019, he said.

The first SpaceX mission to the ISS will be manned by Victor Glover, another newbie, and Mike Hopkins, who has already spent 166 days on the sky-high lab during two tours of duty. The missions will likely include veterans from the US' Space Shuttle program, Gizmodo reported.

Glover joined the astronaut corps in 2013; he is a U.S. Navy commander and test pilot with nearly 3,000 flight hours logged in more than 40 different aircraft.

Prior to their maiden crewed missions, both Boeing and SpaceX plan uncrewed test flights in late 2018 or early 2019. She has spent 322 days in orbit during two missions to the space station.

The hope is that the new crew pods will be certified before NASA's contract with Russian Federation expires, so that USA astronauts will continue to have a ride to work.

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

Only seven astronauts in history have been the first to fly on a brand-new US spacecraft.

NASA says that its astronauts will be joined by other global crew members, to be announced later on.

US President Donald Trump also praised the news while giving himself a pat on the back: "Nasa, which is making a BIG comeback under the Trump Administration, has just named 9 astronauts for Boeing and SpaceX space flights", he tweeted.

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