Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts named by NASA for human spaceflight

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A NASA press release says more crew members may be added to those flights later.

NASA on Friday named the astronaut test pilots who will be the first to fly SpaceX and Boeing capsules launched from Florida to the International Space Station, within a year or less, according to updated schedules.

Mr. Ferguson, who has been involved from the start in the Starliner's development, flew three shuttle missions as a NASA astronaut. Mr. Boe piloted two shuttle flights.

The UAE is also sending its first Emirati astronaut to the ISS using the Soyuz MS-12 mission in April, 2019.


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

"As a test pilot it doesn't get any better than this", Mann told the audience, when asked about being the first to fly a new spacecraft. "(I'm) going, 'Wow, I hope I'm going to make you proud'".

After the crewed test flights, NASA plans to certify the Crew Dragon and Starliner as safe for operational missions carrying four-person crews by late 2019 or early 2020. Launching on Boeing's Starliner will be veteran NASA astronaut Sunita Williams (a former ISS commander) and first-time flyer John Cassada.

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.

NASA has chosen Northeast Philly native and Drexel grad Chris Ferguson to lead crew members on a first-of-its-kind journey to the International Space Station next year.

NASA introduced the nine US astronauts who will fly on commercial Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft on Friday.

NASA is not yet certain exactly when the launches will be. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams. Bridenstine's comments today suggest NASA is considering it for SpaceX, too. He joined the astronaut corps in 2000 and flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice, for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks totaling more than 37 hours.

The firm has come a long way from first announcing its Crew Dragon ship a mere month ago.

Williams said in Friday's interview that the new mission was "a test pilot's dream". It will ride atop a Falcon-9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center.

Both vehicles are capable of reaching the ISS autonomously, and will do so and return to Earth before humans climb aboard.

And astronauts will fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner sometime after that, in the middle of 2019.

Those launch targets may change.

Mr. Behnken, Mr. Hurley, Mr. Boe and Ms. Mann are NASA's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new USA spacecraft since the March 1978 announcement of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews. As of now, the crew is working on flight simulators.

SpaceX, however, did move up the uncrewed test flight of its Dragon spacecraft from December to November of this year. In the meantime, NASA will still rely on Russian Federation to keep Americans flying in space. Boeing's contract is for $4.2 billion; SpaceX's for $2.6 billion.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell touched on that today during the crew announcement.

Safety of the astronauts and reliability of the spacecrafts is the top most priority for both the participating companies.

The seven men and two women pumped their fists in the air and gave thumbs ups as they strode onto the stage to cheers from the crowd. "Thank you very much-we take it seriously, and we won't let you down". "We won't let you down".