Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Sci-tech | By Spencer Schmidt

NASA names astronauts for first manned U.S. space launches since 2011

NASA names astronauts for first manned U.S. space launches since 2011

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.

The return of crew flights to US soil will end NASA's politically inconvenient reliance on Russian Federation for transporting astronauts to the ISS. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

NASA is about to name the first astronauts ever to fly commercial spaceships.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, " said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who introduced the astronauts at Johnson Space Center in Houston in Friday.

The Starliner crew will include former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson and Nicole Aunapu Mann, who is making her first trip to space, alongside Eric Boe, Sunita Williams and John Cassada.

She was the first person to run a marathon in space, cranking out the miles on a treadmill in the space station while the Boston Marathon was being run on Earth in April 2007. This will be Mann's first launch, having joined the astronaut corps in 2013. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.

"NASA is continuing to assess multiple scenarios to ensure continued US access to the International Space Station", the space agency told Bloomberg.

An uncrewed Orbital flight test is scheduled for later this year, with the first crew on board in mid 2019, NASA said. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight". Both SpaceX and Boeing were supposed to clear this hurdle previous year, but Boeing is now likely to win certification in January, with SpaceX following it the next month.

The Commercial Crew program, on the whole, has experienced numerous delays and budget shortfalls as Boeing and SpaceX work to bring crewed launches back to the U.S. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement.

Robert Behnken will be one of two test pilots for the SpaceX Crew Dragon. At first, it seemed like a logical idea - private space enterprises are rapidly becoming all the rage in the United States and beyond, with more than one private company already planning their own space stations for the decades to come. Jasmin Moghbeli, a NASA astronaut candidate, shared her support, saying, "What a great time to be involved in human space exploration!"

The two pairs of Nasa crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and global astronauts to be announced at a later date. The launch window for the mission opens at 3:48 a.m EDT on August 11, 2018.

The space station's operational lifespan has already been extended to reach 2025, though the White House recently began discussing the idea of turning the aging station over to commercial investors who might be interested in continuing the ISS's run of maintaining a continuously manned presence in space for almost two decades.

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