Friday, 17 August, 2018

NASA unveils astronauts who will relaunch human space flights from U.S.

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Sandy Nunez | 06 August, 2018, 10:24

NASA on Friday announced the first astronauts who will fly into space on US -made commercial spacecraft - which will be the agency's first manned missions in years.

"SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first demonstration mission and April 2019 for Crew Dragon's second demonstration mission, which will carry two NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station", said Benji Reed, director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX, in the statement.

Georgia Tech grad Eric Boe (left) and fellow astronauts Nicole Mann and Craig Ferguson are to test fly the Boeing Co.'s Starliner spacecraft sometime in 2019. In a statement, the agency said that additional crew members for those first post-certification missions "will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date".

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

NASA's commercial crew program is part of the greater effort to commercialize the activities in low Earth orbit, utilizing the International Space Station (ISS), where NASA astronauts have been conducting science and research along with international space agency partners. The missions will likely include veterans from the US' Space Shuttle program, Gizmodo reported.

But NASA's options may be limited by the global agreements that established the station in 1998. SpaceX's and Boeing's rockets will be the first commercially-developed vehicles to transport astronauts to the ISS.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you, and it looks like it might", Hurley said, to which Bridenstine said, "Oh it better".

NASA has just updated its schedule for commercial crew. NASA's last space shuttle mission, the STS-135 flight coincidently commanded by Boeing's Ferguson, flew in July 2011.

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Also, flying on the first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will be Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

Sunita Williams, the 52-year-old Indian-origin astronaut, will fly on Starliner's first mission with Josh Cassada.

Boeing Starliner's flight will be known as the Orbital Flight Test, and it will depart atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Only seven astronauts in history have been the first to fly on a brand-new USA spacecraft. Eric Boe is a former Air Force fighter pilot and test pilot, who previously piloted space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.

It is worth mentioning here that the team of nine astronauts comprising of eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut, will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station that will begin in the mid of 2019.

Once Crew Dragon and Starliner are certified by NASA for regular use, they will be used for operational ISS flights around 2020.

NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences.

For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight. Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.