Meet the first astronauts to fly the new SpaceX and Boeing spaceships

08 August, 2018, 20:44 | Author: Tara Reeves
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Until this morning, the publicly available schedule posted on the Internet by NASA showed all four commercial crew test flights - uncrewed and crewed for both companies - taking place in 2018.

Joining Ferguson on the maiden flight will be Eric Boe, a former shuttle pilot, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, who will make her first trip into space.

Ferguson isn't now a NASA employee, though he served as an astronaut from 1998 to 2011 and commanded the final Space Shuttle mission. Their mission will launch in mid-2019, if everything goes according to plan. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly its first astronaut to ISS on a Soyuz in April 2019.

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

"Once you get into the spacecraft, you're on your way, you've got a mission, you're focused, and it's really exciting", she said. "But you know, it looks like it might".

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the shuttles left off, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

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 astronauts were divided into smaller crews assigned to work on test flights and first missions to the worldwide space station.

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On Friday, NASA revealed the nine astronauts that will fly on Boeing and SpaceX's first crewed launches. SpaceX has leased NASA's historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida to launch Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams. "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.

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

The US space agency, meanwhile, is working on building rockets and spacecraft that could allow humans to return to the Moon in the coming decade.

Glover, who also joined NASA in 2013, summed it up simply. "She is in touch with the family as her preparations are going on for the mission", she said. Both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon will need to meet stringent safety requirements and prove they are fit for regular flights. The crewed flight tests will mostly mirror the uncrewed missions, except a flight commander and pilot will be manning each mission once they are ready for a human crew.

Those launch targets may change.

For SpaceX's test flight, NASA assigned Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both members of several Endeavour and Atlantis missions.

Crew for each flight will include at least a flight commander and a pilot. The unmanned test flight is scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. With NASA as the anchor customer, Boeing's Starliner is setting the foundation for commercial passenger flights to and from low-Earth orbit destinations, to include worldwide astronauts, scientists and even tourists. In the meantime, NASA will still rely on Russian Federation to keep Americans flying in space. Boeing received a $4.2 billion contract, and SpaceX's was for $2.6 billion.

The seven men and two women pumped their fists in the air and gave thumbs ups as they strode onto the stage to cheers from the crowd. "We take it seriously".

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