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NASA Assigns First Commercial Crew Astronauts

The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. Photo: NASA

NASA has assigned the first crews of astronauts to launch into space from U.S. soil since 2011. American astronauts have relied on Russia for rides to the International Space Station since the end of the shuttle program.

SpaceX and Boeing are working with NASA to taxi astronauts to the station from Florida’s space coast. Nine astronauts were assigned to four missions – two test flights and two operational missions to the I.S.S.

SpaceX will launch from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A, while Boeing will launch using ULA's Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral.

Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana says the spaceport is ready for astronauts. “This is truly an exciting time for human space flight as a nation and trust me, it’s only going to get better in our future,” Cabana said Friday at the announcment at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“We’re delivering on the critical task of providing a capability to fly our crews, on a U.S. built rocket and spacecraft, from U.S. soil on Florida’s Space Coast to the International Space Station, so we no longer have to rely on our Russian partners to get to space.”

“This accomplished group of American astronauts," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, "will launch a new era of human spaceflight."

SpaceX is targeting an uncrewed launch of the Crew Dragon at the end of this year, followed by a crewed flight in April. Boeing is targeting the launch of an uncrewed CST-100 Starliner early next year, followed by its first crewed launch mid 2019.

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 agency has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company.


Test Flights: 

Crew Dragon, Demo-2 (April 2019)

Robert Behnken. Flight test engineer, colonel in the Air Force and has a doctorate in engineering. 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. NASA Bio

Douglas Hurley. Test pilot in the Marine Corps. Joined NASA in 2000 as an astronaut. He piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127 and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission. NASA Bio


Starliner, Crew Flight Test (Mid-2019)

Eric Boe. Air Force fighter pilot and test pilot. 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. NASA Bio

Chris Ferguson (Boeing Astronaut). Retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135. He retired from NASA in 2011 and has been an integral part of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner program. Boeing Bio

Nicole Aunapu Mann. Marine Corps lieutenant colonial and F/A-18 test pilot.  Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be her first trip to space. NASA Bio


First Mission:

Crew Dragon (Launch TBD)

Victor Glover. Navy commander, aviator and test pilot. He was selected as part of the 2013 astronaut candidate class, and this will be his first spaceflight. NASA Bio

Michael Hopkins. Air Force colonel and flight test engineer. Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009, he has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks. NASA Bio


Starliner (Launch TBD)

Josh Cassada. Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be his first spaceflight. NASA Bio

Sunita Williams. Navy test pilot and captain. 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 Bio


Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA’s international partners at a later date.

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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