Needham astronaut heading back to space on first commercial flights

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SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company is targeting November for an unmanned test launch of the Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

The first USA astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, waving after being announced, (left to right) Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williamson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on August 3. The crewed demonstration flight, with two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.

The commander on the historic last shuttle mission, Chris Ferguson, is now a Boeing employee and has been heavily involved in developing the company's CST-100 Starliner capsule.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.


Mr. Behnken, Mr. Boe, Mr. Hurley and Mr. Williams were named in 2015 as NASA's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly.

The CST-100 test flight will also include Christopher Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and current Boeing commercial astronaut.

Since then, astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport them to and from the orbiting space station.

On the SpaceX vessel will be astronauts Doug Hurley, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken and Michael Hopkins. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.


NASA has tapped nine astronauts to become the first to launch to space from American soil since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011.

Their successful test flight will pave the way for two different astronauts to take the Starliner to the International Space Station for Boeing's first operational mission at a later date.

Boe was selected as an astronaut in 2000. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.

The astronauts will fly on two new spacecraft, the Starliner and Crew Dragon, which are being developed by Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX, respectively, as part of NASA's commercial crew program.


Lawmakers in Congress, however, insisted that NASA still needed to develop its own rocket and space capsule, called the Space Launch System. Mr. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. He is the director of Crew and Mission Systems for Boeing's Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

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