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

Saturday, 04 Aug, 2018

Since the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011, the American space agency has relied on Russian rockets and capsules to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station.

American astronauts haven't launched from the US since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades. Cassada is a rookie astronaut selected in 2013, while Williams, the fourth astronaut selected for commercial crew training, has spent 322 days in space on two long-duration station missions. American astronauts have still traveled to space, but they've used Russia's Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $80 million per seat.

To certify that the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner are ready to become NASA's new go-to space taxis, SpaceX and Boeing are each planning three test missions.

The test flights and missions aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, slated for as early as April 2019, will "begin a new era in America spaceflight", the USA space agency said.

Chris Ferguson: While Ferguson has been retired from NASA since 2011, he has worked with Boeing's Starliner program for years, earning him a key post on the first crewed test of the system.

Space X's Dragon will be tested by Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will be on the crew for that mission. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space. US astronauts now rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get to and from orbit. He's spent almost 29 days in space.

SpaceX later confirmed a successful splashdown, concluding the company's 15th resupply mission to the space station under the space transport company's more than $3 billion, 20-launch cargo contract with NASA. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles.

The test flight astronauts on the Crew Dragon, both of whom joined NASA in 2000, will be Col. SpaceX is targeting April 2019 for its crewed demonstration flight, Demo-2.

Despite her relatively recent success in her work with NASA as an astronaut, NASA officials have noted she's the type of astronaut who could be sent on a manned mission to Mars or to an asteroid.

Prior to their maiden crewed missions, both Boeing and SpaceX plan uncrewed test flights in late 2018 or early 2019.

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.

The announcement can be seen on NASA TV and streamed on NASA's Facebook. But the schedule has repeatedly moved to the right for SpaceX as well as Boeing, due to setbacks ranging from SpaceX's launch pad blow-up in 2016 to Boeing's engine valve problems this June.

All around the world (and even in space), astronauts and non-astronauts alike continue to show their excitement and support for the talented individuals chosen for these groundbreaking missions. Jasmin Moghbeli, a NASA astronaut candidate, shared her support, saying, "What a great time to be involved in human space exploration!"