NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, was on hand at NASA's Johnson Space Center to announce the nine new commercial crew astronauts. Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander, is Boeing's director of crew and mission systems.
The endeavor will return astronaut launches to USA soil for the first time since the space shuttle´s retirement in 2011.
"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp".
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SpaceX's first crew tests on the Dragon capsule will be helmed by shuttle veterans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify that the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the United States space agency said. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from US soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.
Ticket prices for customers who want a seat on the SpaceX's Crew Dragon or Boeing's CST-100 Starliner have not yet been revealed.
Josh Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, and Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and test pilot, will fly the Boeing-built spacecraft for its initial crewed mission to the orbiting laboratory. It will be first spaceflight for 45-year-old Cassada while Williams has the experience of two stays at the ISS. She has spent 322 days in orbit during two missions to the space station. Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August. Boe piloted space shuttle Endeavour and Discovery on its final flight, Ferguson piloted and commanded Atlantis and commanded Endeavour, Hurley piloted Endeavor and Atlantis, and Behnken flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice. "Both partners said they really wanted to have an uncrewed flight test to make sure the integrated rockets, spacecraft and re-entry systems are all working as created to be able to ensure the integrated system is functioning". Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013.
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The new commercial capsules will replace NASA's space shuttle program, which last flew in 2011. The group includes eight current NASA astronauts and one Boeing astronaut.
The aviation companies will be conducting test flights at the end of this year and next, and astronauts will leave for the global space station Cape Canaveral in Florida next spring or summer.
The process will begin with uncrewed flight tests as early as late 2018. It will mark Mann's first trip to space. He has logged more than 40 days in space across three space shuttle missions.
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.
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