Science

Sunita Williams among nine astronauts for first space flights on commercial spacecraft

Sunita Williams among nine astronauts for first space flights on commercial spacecraft

NASA on Friday announced the crews of the first flights from USA soil since the space shuttle retired in 2011, an elite group of astronauts that the agency hopes will help open a new era of space travel.

The test flight astronauts on the Crew Dragon, both of whom joined NASA in 2000, will be Col.

They will mark the first astronaut launches from USA soil since the 2011 retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet.

NASA named the crews for the first four flights planned with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX at a Friday news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston. A new era will be marked with the launch of this proficient group of American astronauts who will be flying on new spacecraft designed and developed by the commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space. He, too, has a history on the space shuttle: Ferguson piloted Atlantis for STS-115, was the commander of Endeavour on STS-126, and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission. And Nasa also named the astronauts for those flights as well.

American astronauts haven't launched from the USA since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades.

"I'm just really excited that we're going to take these spacecraft and show them off to our worldwide partners", said Williams. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".

The astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew. But NASA warns that these dates are just targets, and both commercial providers have "more work ahead of them" before they can launch to the ISS.




Since NASA's space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, it has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly astronauts to the space station.

The first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will include NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The first mission has been tasked to Josh Cassada (first time in space) and Sunita Williams, ISS astronaut. Each ship requires two crewed test launches before NASA will certify it for routine flight.

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. On Friday, the space agency introduced the nine-member team tasked with making the first flights. He has logged more than 40 days in space across three space shuttle missions.

Earlier this year, NASA said the two companies would conduct unmanned test flight in August.

The agency landed on the Commercial Crew program, which would see Boeing and SpaceX build new vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the space station.

After each company successfully completes its crewed test flight, NASA will begin the final process of certifying that spacecraft and systems for regular crew missions to the space station. The astronauts will travel in the new Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon.

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.

Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two spaceflights each, will lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A.