NASA Assigns Crews to First Commercial Spacecraft Flights

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NASA introduced to the world on Friday the first USA astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

USA astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat.

"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said at the event.

NASA's partners on the International Space Station program - the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency - are expected to assign members of their own astronaut corps to the CST-100 and Crew Dragon crew rotation flights.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The CST-100 test flight will also include Christopher Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and current Boeing commercial astronaut. NASA's last space shuttle mission, the STS-135 flight coincidently commanded by Boeing's Ferguson, flew in July 2011.

The agency said more crew members will be announced later.

Their voyages are scheduled to begin next year, and they would be the first American astronauts to launch from US soil since 2011. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.

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The vessels, the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner, have been developed with billions of dollars in funding from NASA, which has contracted SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to make cargo deliveries to the space station since 2012. (BA) to the punch when it comes to flying astronauts to the International Space Station.

The two astronauts that the SpaceX company will send later will be Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in the space lab, and Victor Glover, who will be making his debut.

After announcing the crews, Bridenstine engaged in a largely lighthearted question-and-answer session with the selected astronauts, who expressed their delight in being selected and anticipation in flying on these next-generation vehicles. He will be joined by veteran astronaut Suni Williams, who has spent more than 50 hours on spacewalks and ran the first marathon in space on board the ISS in 2007. As a naval aviator, she flew combat missions during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom before becoming a naval test pilot. SpaceX aims to launch an uncrewed test flight in November of this year, with a Boeing test flight scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. He became a NASA astronaut in 2013.

Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS - the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019. A rookie to spaceflight, Cassada was selected by NASA in 2013.

After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft.

Williams said in Friday's interview that the new mission was "a test pilot's dream".

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

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