Needham Astronaut To Fly To ISS On Boeing Commercial Capsule

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada will be the first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station in Boeing's upcoming commercial capsule

On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing.

"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight", said Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

According to a statement released by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the announcement of "Launch America", they are on the verge of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.

NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 as part of its commercial crew program, aimed at helping private industry build spaceships to reach low-Earth orbit.

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

Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules will carry eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut-turned-corporate crew member to the International Space Station starting next year. That flight is now projected to lift off in April of 2019. "As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this". Chris Ferguson and Marine Corps test pilot Nicole Mann, who will conduct the first Starliner flight test sometime in mid-2019. "But you know, it looks like it might".

William ran the first marathon by any person in space. For SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft the astronauts will be: Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins.

On Friday NASA announced the class of astronauts who will ride the first commercial capsules into orbit next year and bring human launches back to the U.S. Needham's Sunita Williams left will fly Boeing's Starliner capsule

It's been a long trip for these astronauts.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's announcement signals a milestone in the USA space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. The group includes former space shuttle flyers, ex-military test pilots, rookies, and - critically - a cadre of four astronauts who've already been testing and providing feedback on the new commercial ships for years.

With 322 days in space, Williams is sixth all-time on NASA's spaceflight endurance list and second all-time among female astronauts. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams. In December, Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 to set the moon as NASA's next goal for astronauts. Ever since the Space Shuttle Program ended, American astronauts have been paying for seats on Russia's Soyuz capsules to make it to the International Space Station where they live and work for a span of six months.

NASA's 30-year space shuttle program came to a close in 2011 so the space agency could focus on bigger journeys, like a mission to Mars.

Since the shuttle was retired seven years ago, US astronauts have had to fly on Russian rockets from a remote launch site in Kazakhstan. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth. Both vehicles are reusable.

The first flight test with a crew on board will take place in April 2019, after the unmanned test (this November) is finished, announced NASA.

Those launch targets may change. She's no stranger to high-speed flight, however, being an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours across over 25 aircraft.

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