NASA announces astronauts for first commercial spaceflights from U.S.

Astronauts Nicole Mann right and Eric Boe left bump fists in front of Christopher Ferguson after being introduced during a NASA event to announce the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and S

The United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday named nine astronauts for the first trip to the International Space Station on a commercially built spacecraft.

The program's core goals are to get an American-made ships able reach the International Space Station (ISS), plus reduce or eliminate USA reliance on Russia's ever-more-expensive Soyuz spaceships to get there.

"A small investment from the American taxpayer has paid dividends to the point now where space has transformed the lives of not only every American, but every person on the face of the planet in so many ways that people usually don't even recognize it". On Friday, they revealed the crew members who will be carrying out the Space agency's first commercial flights. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of a NASA astronaut flying with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsules. He has since worked with Boeing to develop and test the Starliner spacecraft.

In a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stood on a stage with a massive American flag, and introduced the crews, one-by-one, as they came on stage in distinct groups: one for SpaceX, the other Boeing.

Eric Boe: Boe was born in Florida and grew up in Atlanta. And Nasa also named the astronauts for those flights as well.

Ferguson grew up in a rowhouse on Amity Road in Northeast Philadelphia, playing wire ball and stickball and delivering the Inquirer for pocket money, he said in a 2005 Inquirer article.

The successful flight marked the scheduled end of the 30-year space shuttle program. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight. The Crew Dragon will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A man from St. Ann is headed into space. He is an Air Force colonel with a doctorate in engineering.

Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014.

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

Josh Cassada: Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft.

Glover and Cassada are spaceflight rookies.

Clockwise from top left: Sunita Williams, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Eric Boe. It has also been paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

Victor Glover is from Pomona, California. As a naval aviator, she flew combat missions during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom before becoming a naval test pilot. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq. He was selected as part of the 2013 astronaut candidate class, and this will be his first spaceflight.

Mike Hopkins: Hopkins was raised on a farm near Richland, Missouri, and he has a master's in aerospace engineering.

Hopkins had previously spent 166 days on the International Space Station, and conducted two spacewalks.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch. Though that will require final certification for International Space Station deliveries first, the space agency has already confirmed partial crews for those first missions. This research has led to dramatic improvements in technology, infrastructure and medicine, and thousands of spinoff technologies that have improved quality of life here on Earth.

NASA has always been working on developing its commercial crew programme while it can focus on its space exploration projects, the report added.

Ferguson commanded the final mission of the space shuttle program, and Hurley was the pilot on that flight.

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