Meet NASA's New Astronauts Flying SpaceX And Boeing Ships to Space

In this illustration a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking

The first US astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, waving after being announced, (left to right) Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williamson at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on August 3. Boeing's Ferguson was pilot on STS-116 on board Space Shuttle Atlantis as well as commander of STS-126 on Space Shuttle Endeavour and the final flight of the space shuttle program, STS-135 on board Atlantis.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.

NASA will announce the astronauts for the first test flights and missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft Friday.

The Boeing and SpaceX crewed test missions are arguably the most anticipated spaceship test flights this century. 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".

The former Yellow Jacket has been working with both companies since 2015, developing and testing spacecraft that will eventually launch Americans into space from USA soil for the first time since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

The research taking place on the International Space Station is providing valuable information and breakthroughs for life on the ground. Each ship requires two crewed test launches before NASA will certify it for routine flight.

SpaceX's first test launch will ferry NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into space.

For Starliner, that will see Navy commander and test pilot Josh Cassada make his first spaceflight, joined by Sunita Williams, a former Navy test pilot and captain before joining NASA. The test flight with crew is scheduled for mid-2019.

Three of the chosen astronauts joined the corps in 2013, which was before the commercial partnership was announced. He's spent almost 29 days in space. I'm honored to represent the entire #Boeing team and our commitment to the future of human space exploration.

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Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.

Earlier this year, NASA unveiled a commercial crew schedule that called for the first uncrewed test flights by SpaceX and Boeing this month.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

The seven men and two women pumped their fists in the air and gave thumbs ups as they strode onto the stage to cheers from the crowd.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.

In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking.

The crew missions have been repeatedly delayed because of technical and safety issues.

The first flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon is expected in April 2019, following an unmanned test in November, NASA said.

The goal now is to complete the certification for sending humans to space in 2019. "We're not going to let you down".

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