Needham astronaut heading back to space on first commercial flights

Mindy Sparks
August 7, 2018

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday.

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

It's getting real: The test launches of these rockets will be some of the most anticipated since the end of the shuttle program-success would cement the private space industry in the annals of crewed space exploration.

NASA has been collaborating with commercial space companies for years, with the goal of having the private sector take over "routine" trips to the space station and low Earth orbit.

"To work and live in space is just a humbling and fantastic blessing in and of itself, and now to have the opportunity to work with these great companies on something that is so important to our nation and to NASA", Glover said. Both companies have really leveled up their technology and safety measures with exhaustive tests that are bound to prove themselves once the spacecraft take off.

It could be the first time the nation has sent astronauts to space from US soil since 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle Atlantis and Ferguson was the last person to step off the shuttle.

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation".

The American space agency said on August 3 that the astronauts will crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. It'll be his first spaceflight, though he has a wide range of experience with combat missions and testing aircraft.

As the crew were introduced, the space adventurers gave thumbs-up to cheers from the crowd. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", said Hurley, who flew on the last shuttle mission.

The Starliner test flight astronauts named by the agency are Eric Boe, Christopher Ferguson, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, while the Crew Dragon test flight astronauts would be Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

Former shuttle commander Chris Ferguson, who helmed the final flight of the shuttle Atlantis in 2011, will lead a three-person crew on the first piloted mission of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon. SpaceX aims to launch an uncrewed test flight in November of this year, with a Boeing test flight scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to fly Crew Dragon for the first time in April 2019.

Williams was selected as an astronaut in 1998 and has spent 322 days in space over the course of two missions, including one in which she was the commander of the International Space Station. The test launch will be her first trip to space.

"The 7,000 women and men of SpaceX understand what a sacred honour this was, for us to be part of this program, and for us to fly you", said Gwynne Shotwell, the chief operating officer of SpaceX, at the Friday press conference.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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