NASA announces new astronaut class

NASA assigns astronauts to first commercial crew missions

In a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA announced who would fly on the crewed test flights planned for next year of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, as well as the first post-certification, or operational, missions by each vehicle. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

Today, NASA moved another inch closer.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the event attended by several members of Congress and other NASA and industry officials.

Eric Boe was born in Miami and grew up in Atlanta.

Team Boeing consists of retired Air Force Col. He flew on two flights of the space shuttle including the final mission, Atlantis's STS-135.

Christopher Ferguson understands not only NASA but also Boeing.

These three astronauts are responsible for Boeing's Starliner spacecraft. This will be her first trip to space.

Robert "Bob" Behnken isn't just an astronaut. He holds a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering.

We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil.

Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He was chosen as an astronaut in 2000. He is the last person to serve as a commander for the NASA space shuttle program.

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By handing off crew and cargo runs to the space station - which will keep orbiting until at least 2024 - NASA has set its sight on the moon and Mars, developing the Orion capsule and the massive Space Launch System rocket.

"As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this", said astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, a Naval aviator who will make her first trip into space on the first Starliner crew.

Astronaut Josh Cassada is a physicist by training. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight.

Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown. Eric Boe, retired Navy Capt. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks.

Victor Glover is from Pomona, California. He's logged over 1,000 flight hours in 25 different types of aircraft. He made 400 carrier landings and flew 24 combat missions.

Michael Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri, and grew up on a farm near Richland, Missouri.

Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry.

Maintaining the International Space Station costs the federal government up to $4 billion a year, and NASA is working on plans to privatize it.

The first crew to be presented was that of the Boeing Starliner capsule, which will make a trial flight scheduled for mid-2019 and will be boosted into space from Florida's Kennedy Space Center by an Atlas V rocket of the United Launch Alliance. Since then, NASA has been forced to rely exclusively on Russia's increasingly expensive Soyuz spaceships to get to the International Space Station (ISS), in which the United States government has invested about $100 billion. The public-private partnerships fostered by the program will stimulate growth in a robust commercial space industry and spark life-changing innovations for future generations.

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