NASA announces astronauts for first commercial spaceflights from U.S.

NASA announces names of astronauts who will crew first spacecraft launched from U.S. soil since 2011

NASA will name 1st astronauts to fly commercial spacecraft to International Space Station

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

America, meet your new astronauts.

Since then, astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport them to and from the orbiting space station.

NASA Commercial Crew Program NASA astronauts (from left) are: Suni Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Bob Behnken, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover.

USA 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). Bob Behnken of the Air Force and Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel.

She was the first person to run a marathon in space, cranking out the miles on a treadmill in the space station while the Boston Marathon was being run on Earth in April 2007.

"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann.

"As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this", said Mann, a Naval aviator.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule is expected to undergo an uncrewed test flight sometime later this year or early next year, with a crew test flight in the middle of 2019. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.

Seven men and four women will be go into orbit on crew capsules built by Boeing and SpaceX. "We take it seriously".

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the news, and tweeted, " NASA, which is making a BIG comeback under the Trump Administration, has just named 9 astronauts for Boeing and SpaceX space flights. An astronaut of Indian origin Sunita Williams is among the nine. Hurley was the pilot on the last shuttle mission.

American astronauts haven't launched from the US since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades.

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

Williams has spent 322 days in space as part of two expeditions: 14/15 and 32/33. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time. I've watched people and teams come together these last few years, and now we're getting close to space flight. "That's going to help all of us understand how to live and work in space". "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is facilitating the development of a USA commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.

The space agency has reason to be eager.

When the Starliner approaches the International Space Station, the docking will be fully autonomous as the spacecraft manoeuvres toward an adapted docking port for commercial spacecraft.

Despite the fanfare around Friday's presentation, the Commercial Crew program has endured years of delays. The space enthusiast said that, should the two Crew Dragon test flights perform well, the hardware will be ready.

The crew missions have been repeatedly delayed because of technical and safety issues.

The announcement can be seen on NASA TV and streamed on NASA's Facebook. And on Thursday, SpaceNews reported that the companies' timelines would slip three to four more months.

SpaceX and Boeing are planning a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early 2019.

The companies are running out of buffer.

Become a member of The Planetary Society and together we will create the future of space exploration. NASA now has a contract to use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that expires on November 2019, and the agency plans to use Boeing or SpaceX to fill the gap.

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