NASA announces crew for commercial spaceships

Pablo Tucker
August 6, 2018

Those named for the crew test flights for Boeing's Starliner include NASA shuttle veterans Eric Boe and Christopher Ferguson, along with Nicole Aunapu Mann, a naval aviator who was named a NASA astronaut in 2013 and will be making her first flight to space.

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.

Both spacecraft are now undergoing hardware tests, with final processing ahead as launch dates hover closer.

SpaceX's first crew tests on the Dragon capsule will be helmed by shuttle veterans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. That flight is now projected to lift off in April of 2019.

"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", Mann, a Marine Corps lieutenant who joined NASA in 2013, said during the announcement.

SpaceX will fly an uncrewed test flight in November 2018 and another with astronauts on board in April 2019. "But you know, it looks like it might".

Plans will be for NASA to send four astronauts up to the station on each mission, one more than the current three-person crews.

NASA astronauts Victor Glover, a 1999 Cal Poly graduate, and Mike Hopkins have been selected to fly Crew Dragon, a private spaceship built by SpaceX, to the International Space Station in 2019.

In addition to the above, two other astronauts-Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins- will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.

It's been a long trip for these astronauts.

Behnken, Hurley, Boe, and Mann are NASA's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new U.S. spacecraft since the March 1978 announcement of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews.

The commander on the historic last shuttle mission, Chris Ferguson, is now a Boeing employee and has been heavily involved in developing the company's CST-100 Starliner capsule.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell took a photo of the astronauts before assuring them: "We won't let you down". Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams.

Suni Williams: Williams was chosen as an astronaut in 1998 after a career in the Navy. Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander, is Boeing's director of crew and mission systems. Getting a ride from Russian Federation costs the US government $70 million to $80 million per seat, reported The Atlantic.

The following five astronauts will be on the first crewed test flight. "(I'm) going, 'Wow, I hope I'm going to make you proud'".

"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said.

Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's worldwide partners at a later date. Both vehicles are reusable.

In this illustration, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown in low-Earth orbit. Announced today is the initial crew manifest for both the test flight and the first mission each company will undertake.

Those launch targets may change.

Glover joined the astronaut corps in 2013; he is a U.S. Navy commander and test pilot with nearly 3,000 flight hours logged in more than 40 different aircraft. The first crewed flights would then follow by the end of 2018.

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