NASA Taps Astronauts for Commercial Flights

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 5, 2018

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.

"The goal is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations", NASA said.

The crews would fly on spacecraft developed not by NASA but by two corporations, SpaceX and Boeing, which are under contract to provide a taxi-like service to the International Space Station.

The aviation companies will be conducting test flights at the end of this year and next, and astronauts will leave for the worldwide space station Cape Canaveral in Florida next spring or summer.

Chris Ferguson and Marine Corps test pilot Nicole Mann, who will conduct the first Starliner flight test sometime in mid-2019.

The successful flight marked the scheduled end of the 30-year space shuttle program.

The Boeing and SpaceX crewed test missions are arguably the most anticipated spaceship test flights this century.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts from American rockets on American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a televised briefing on Friday.

Their voyages are scheduled to begin next year, and they would be the first American astronauts to launch from USA soil since 2011.

The Government Accountability Office recently issued a warning to NASA that it needs to have a contingency plan in place to ensure continued access to the space station, which costs the United States about $3 billion annually.

NASA has had to partner with Russian Federation to launch astronauts to the International Space Station since the space shuttle program ended.

Even before the end of the shuttle program, NASA got to work to find a replacement.

The first Boeing trip to the orbiting outpost includes Josh Cassada, who has never been in space before, and Suni Williams, who is one of the most experienced American astronauts in history, having spent a cumulative 321 days in orbit through her career. "This is a test pilot's dream".

SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay of its first crewed test flight. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon that will be used for Demo-1 arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July. It will be Mr. Cassada's first spaceflight.

"Rockets are fun. I'll be ready, I can't wait", Williams said in an interview posted Friday on the International Space Station Facebook page.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.

Nicole Mann: Mann was chosen as an astronaut in 2013, coming to NASA from the Marine Corps, where she was a Lieutenant Colonel and a test pilot.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program is facilitating the development of a USA commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.

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