"The Mercury 7 and the crews that we just announced - that same spirit is there", he 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. That is why in 2010 NASA started accepting proposals from commercial companies that were making astronaut transportation systems.
"This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
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.
In this illustration, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown in low-Earth orbit.
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.
For the past seven years, NASA astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft - at a cost of some $80 million a seat.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew.
Williams has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station since becoming an astronaut in 1998.
Sunita Williams, a veteran astronaut with roots in Needham, is going back into space.
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Sithole said they were ready for any eventuality and their precise preparation kept them in the game despite the personnel shortages.
"What we see now is a much great emphasis on safety", Ferguson said, regarding differences between the shuttle program.
Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of a NASA astronaut flying with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsules.
Boe was selected as an astronaut in 2000.
SpaceX's four-member crew consists of Air Force flight test engineer Bob Behnken and retired Marine Corps test pilot Doug Hurley, tasked with the Dragon's demo flight scheduled for April 2019; Dragon's first mission will be flown by Navy test pilot Victor Glover and the Air Force's Mike Hopkins.
Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August. SpaceX's manned test flight will feature two NASA astronauts.
Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.
The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.
The first crewed flights will only spend a short period of time in orbit before coming back to Earth.
Lawmakers in Congress, however, insisted that NASA still needed to develop its own rocket and space capsule, called the Space Launch System.