Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts named by NASA for first commercial flights

Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts named by NASA for first commercial flights

Chris Ferguson, who led the final space shuttle mission, will make his fourth spaceflight when he and NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann take the new Boeing [NYSE: BA] CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft to the International Space Station. They will be the first Americans to launch into space from US soil since NASA's space shuttle program retired in 2011.Since then, the USA has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to carry Americans space. Assuming the test flights go according to plan, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly on SpaceX's Dragon in April 2019, and Eric Boe, Nicole Aunapu Mann, and Chris Ferguson will be the first people to fly aboard the Boeing Starliner in mid-2019.

US astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat. U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials have noted that NASA's last Russian ride from the International Space Station returns to Earth in November 2019.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, was on hand at NASA's Johnson Space Center to announce the nine new commercial crew astronauts.

Trump's Twitter praise for the astronauts did appear to gloss over the fact that NASA is actually paying SpaceX and Boeing to fly American astronauts.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014. Among the three astronauts selected for Boeing's Starliner test flight is Nicole Aunapu Mann - a California native whose grandfather, Helmuth Aunapu, emigrated to the U.S. from Estonia just before the Second World War. He came to NASA from the Air Force, where he was a fighter pilot and test pilot and rose to the rank of colonel. NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet its safety and performance requirements.

"It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the International Space Station", Mr. Geyer said.

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"I've been waiting for this day." said Sunita Williams, who was one of the four astronauts that has been working with both commercial partners for the last three years. She then served two combat tours, flying 47 combat missions in F/A-18s (a USA combat jet) as a fighter pilot over Iraq and Afghanistan.

But NASA's options may be limited by the worldwide agreements that established the station in 1998. The other commercial crew members are still with NASA. "This is a test pilot's dream". The first flight will be a test flight. He's performed six spacewalks totaling almost 40 hours. The capsules, made by SpaceX and Boeing, will ferry the astronauts and cargo back and forth to the International Space Station.

Victor Glover is from Pomona, California. If any further delays creep up, NASA's astronauts may be temporarily stranded on Earth.

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.

Mike Hopkins: Hopkins was raised on a farm near Richland, Missouri, and he has a master's in aerospace engineering.

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

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