NASA announces new astronaut class

NASA assigns astronauts to first commercial crew missions

The first US astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, waving after being announced, (left to right) Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williamson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on August 3.

The eight active Nasa astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station beginning in 2019.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, said.

After a seven-year hiatus, American astronauts will once again go to space from the U.S. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

USA astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat.

The timetable for the launches was supposed to have been for test flights to take place before the end of 2018, but both companies have faced technical issues that may delay that into 2019. His second flight as a pilot was the final scheduled flight of the Discovery - the third-to-last flight of the NASA Space Shuttle Program. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles.

Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams were named in 2015 as Nasa's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly. However, a NASA spokesman said that does not guarantee those four astronauts will be assigned to an actual mission. It will be Glover's first time in space. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force. She returned to the ISS as the flight engineer on Expedition 32 in 2012 and then served as commander for Expedition 33.

Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight. "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.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences.

Williams has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station since becoming an astronaut in 1998.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch. The two companies have also developed new spacesuits, modified their launch pads and established mission control teams to support the upcoming flights.

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