Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly into space from USA soil

Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly into space from USA soil

NASA named the crews for the first four flights planned with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX at a Friday news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Friday, NASA said that if unmanned test flights go smoothly, the group of nine astronauts will fly before then, on the first test flight and mission of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

This is the first time since 2011 (when the USA's space shuttle retired) that astronauts will launch from the United States soil and from American-made spacecrafts.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

"We are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA posted on Twitter, quoting Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the Launch America announcement.

Boeing has leased two of NASA's old space shuttle hangars at KSC, known as Orbiter Processing Facilities, to build its Starliners and house two small robotic X-37B space planes it built for the Air Force.

The crew for the test flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner will be NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann flying with Boeing employee and former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson. Robert Behnken, a former Air Force colonel, will join former Marine Corps colonel Douglas Hurley on the Crew Dragon test flight. He has since worked with Boeing to develop and test the Starliner spacecraft.

Earlier this year, NASA unveiled a commercial crew schedule that called for the first uncrewed test flights by SpaceX and Boeing this month. Since then, every nation on Earth has relied on Russian Federation to get to the International Space Station.

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In 2013, she was one of the eight candidates selected from more than 6,300 applicants to train as an astronaut for NASA, and the agency later announced Mann could be one of the first astronauts sent on a mission to Mars. Journey on one of the last shuttle missions to witness some final "firsts" made aboard this unique spacecraft. In December, Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 to set the moon as NASA's next goal for astronauts.

Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first.

Now, SpaceX will launch its uncrewed test flight in November 2018, with the first crewed flight next spring. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks.

Following this first trial flight, two pilots will travel in the Starliner to the ISS: Suni Williams, who since he was picked to be an astronaut in 1998 has made seven space flights and has spent more than 322 days in the stratosphere, and Josh Cassada, who has yet to make his first space flight.

Victor Glover is from Pomona, California. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000.

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

Last week, Boeing confirmed that it had a problem with its launch-abort system, which is created to ferry crews to safety in the event of an emergency.

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

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