Sci-tech

Astronauts picked for SpaceX, Boeing capsule test flights

Astronauts picked for SpaceX, Boeing capsule test flights

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

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.

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Former chief astronaut Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - who served as co-pilot on the final shuttle mission - will fly on SpaceX's Dragon during its first manned flight. He will be joined by Eric Boe, who flew on two shuttle missions and was another astronaut selected for commercial crew training in 2015, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a member of the astronaut class of 2013 who will be making her first flight.

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

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

With these launches the United States will recover its prominence in the space race after seven years of depending on Russian infrastructure to send its astronauts into space. SpaceX says their test flight will happen this November, while Boeing is now targeting late 2018 or early 2019. Many spacecraft, including Crew Dragon and Starliner, use hypergolic propellant for abort engines because it ignites on contact and is a good choice for quickly blasting a crew capsule away from a failing rocket.

The second demo mission of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to launch in April 2019.

More news: Canadian province scraps ‘not sustainable’ basic income program pilot

The announcement is a major development after years of obstacles in sending crews to space.

Astronauts, from left to right, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams. He flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2008 with fellow Georgia Tech graduates Sandy Magnus and Shane Kimbrough.

The agency said more crew members will be announced later. Boeing's first operational mission to the space station will mark his first time in space.

No NASA astronaut has rocketed into space from American soil since July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, laden with 28,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station. Williams has already spent more than 300 days on the ISS. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight.

The mission which ended Friday delivered 5,946 pounds (2,697 kilograms) of equipment, experiments and provisions to the orbiting research laboratory, including an AI-powered helper bot for the research lab's six-person crew, a spare hand for the Canadian robotic arm, and an externally-mounted NASA instrument to monitor the health of plants on Earth. Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.

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.


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