NASA Assigns Crews to First Test Flights, Missions on Commercial Spacecraft

Crew Dragon and Starliner A Look at the Coming Astronaut Taxis

But NASA's options may be limited by the worldwide agreements that established the station in 1998.

"We are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the "Launch America" announcement.

NASA introduced to the world on Friday the first USA astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station - an endeavor that will return astronaut launches to US soil for the first time since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back", he said.

"We're ushering in this new era of American spaceflight".

The Crew Dragon missions will pave the way for SpaceX's more ambitious projects, like sending the first humans to Mars as early as 2024.

The space agency announced on Friday that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.

"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said in a statement. Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams will crew the Starliner's first mission, while Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly aboard the Crew Dragon first mission. Nicole Aunapu Mann will be making her first flight; she completed her astronaut training in 2015. If all goes as planned, he could make history as the first private citizen to launch to orbit on a commercially operated space craft.

The astronauts assigned to the Starliner's first mission are Sunita Williams, who retired as a Navy captain, and Cmdr.

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It's been a long trip for these astronauts.

In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing received contracts for $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to develop space capsules that can ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight.

Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS - the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams. On one side, Boeing showed off its spacesuit, a handsome blue uniform, next to SpaceX's sleek black-and-white suit. According to NASA website, Williams - a veteran of two space mission expeditions - is now training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft - the second crewed flight for that vehicle - and her third long duration mission aboard the International Space Station.

"We're immensely proud of Chris and thrilled he will be part of first Starliner crew", Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said.

These US astronauts previously flew aboard Russian spacecraft to get to the ISS.

Some of the newly named crew, like Cassada, joined NASA expecting to fly on Soyuz spacecraft before any new American ship.

"It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the ISS", he added.

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