NASA news: Astronauts named ahead of SpaceX and Boeing flight to ISS | Science | News

Nine American astronauts will be the first to blast off into space from American soil on American-built craft since pulled the plug on the space shuttle program in 2011.

NASA aims to re-establish dominance in space once again by partnering with commercial rocket manufactures SpaceX and Boeing on a series of test flights and missions to the ISS.

The NASA astronauts are Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said of the announcement: “Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp.

“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.

“Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”

NASA assigned the nine spaceflight experts to pilot ’s new Dragon Crew module and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner in flight.

The astronauts were selected for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program which works closely with commercial spaceflight companies to design, develop and test cost-effective methods of reaching low-Earth orbit.

Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said: “At this moment we have six humans living and working in space about 200 miles above us. These spacecraft will allow us to expand the space station crew.

“This is just the beginning of enduring missions that this country is embarking upon.”

NASA crew: These nine astronauts will fly to the ISS from American soil in the near future (Image: NASA)

NASA news: Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken

NASA crew: Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) will test the SpaceX module (Image: NASA)

Who are the NASA astronauts on the SpaceX test flight?

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will be the first astronauts to test the new SpaceX module onboard a Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Mr Behnken is a veteran flight test engineer colonel in the US Air Force who joined the astronaut corps in 2000.

This is just the beginning of enduring missions that this country is embarking upon

Mark Geyer, NASA Johnson Space Center

The astronaut previously flew on the space shuttle Endeavour on two occasions and has clocked in more than 37 hours in outer space on six spacewalks.

Mr Hurley was a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corpse before joining NASA’s ranks as an astronaut in 2000, whereafter he piloted the Endeavour and Atlantis space shuttles.

He said: “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.

“Bob and I are extremely excited to put Crew Dragon through its paces in space and get to the International Space Station again.”

NASA news: Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins

NASA crew: Victor Glover (left) and Michael Hopkins (right) will lead the SpaceX Dragon mission (Image: NASA)

Who are the NASA astronauts on the SpaceX ISS flight?

Astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will lead the SpaceX mission to the ISS and will be joined by additional crew members assigned at a later date.

Over the course of his career as a Navy commander and pilot, Mr Glover has accrued more than 3,000 hours flying more than 40 different aircraft. The SpaceX mission marks his first trip into space.

He said: “To have the opportunity to work with these great companies on something that is so important to our nation and to NASA, this is the stuff of dreams.

“I’m just excited to get to work making it a reality.”

Mr Hopkins is a colonel in the US Air Force who was a test flight engineer before NASA selected him as an astronaut in 2009.

The astronaut has so far spent 166 days on the ISS during Expeditions 37 and 38 between 2013 and 2014.

NASA news: Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Chris ferguson

NASA crew: Nicole Mann (left), Chris Ferguson (centre) and Eric Boe (right) will test the Starliner (Image: NASA)

NASA news: Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams

NASA crew: Josh Cassada (left) and Sunita Williams (right) will lead the Boeing mission to the ISS (Image: NASA)

Who are the NASA astronauts on the Boeing test flight?

The first two astronauts to embark on this venture aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft are NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann alongside Boeing’s Chris Ferguson.

Mr Boe previously piloted the space shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-126 and the space shuttle Discovery on its final mission in 2011.

Mr Ferguson is a retired Navy captain who piloted the space shuttle Atlantis and commanded the space shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis on missions STS-126 and STS-135.

Mrs Mann is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps an F/A-18 pilot with more than 2,500 hours of flight spent in 25 different aircraft. This will be her very first flight into space.

She said after the announcement: “It’s absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime. To be involved in the test and development and to be there on launch day, and to experience the results of all that hard work, it’s going to be a proud moment for the team and for America.

“As a test pilot, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Who are the NASA astronauts on the Starliner ISS flight?

After the Boeing test flights are successfully completed, astronauts Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams will take the Boeing Starliner into space on its first official mission.

Mr Cassada is a Navy commander who has more than 3,500 flight hours across 40 aircraft on his resume but this will be his first flight into space since being made an astronaut in 2013.

The astronaut said the upcoming mission is evidence Americans working together can achieve the “impossible”.

Mr Cassada is joined by veteran astronaut, Mrs Williams, who has held the coveted title of astronaut since 1998.

She said: “I’m really excited that we’re actually going to be able to take these spacecraft and show them off to our international partners, and have them ride with us to the International Space Station.”

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