The space agency announced on Friday that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.
"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during the event. - Alan Shepard, John Young are some of America's first explorers into the great unknown, but Friday NASA will announce who will be America's next space pioneers. Assuming the test flights go according to plan, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly on SpaceX's Dragon in April 2019, and Eric Boe, Nicole Aunapu Mann, and Chris Ferguson will be the first people to fly aboard the Boeing Starliner in mid-2019.
The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon.
Since NASA's space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, it has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly astronauts to the space station. Glover was selected by NASA in 2013, and his mission with SpaceX will mark his first time in space. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.
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.
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NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted. Boe will be making his third trip to space.
Sunita Williams, the 52-year-old Indian-origin astronaut, will fly on Starliner's first mission with Josh Cassada.
"The opportunity to fly in a new vehicle is any test pilot and astronaut's dream", Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who will fly aboard the Crew Dragon on its first mission, wrote on Twitter. SpaceX hopes to fly that test by this November, with Boeing targeting late 2019 or early 2020.
Chris Ferguson - retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut, now working with Boeing on the CST-100 Starliner program; piloted the Atlantis during STS-115 and commanded both the Endeavour and the Atlantis on STS-126 and STS-135. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks. That would include adding a third astronaut to the mission and extending its stay on the station from two weeks to up to six months. What is not known is who gets to fly on which company's spacecraft, and on which flight they get to launch.
The two pairs of NASA crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and global astronauts to be announced at a later date.
In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station.