Blend of novices, veterans to fly on first private US spaceships

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, TAMPA

Aug 5, 2018-

Nasa on Friday named the first nine astronauts who will fly to space on Boeing and SpaceX vehicles in 2019—a mix of novices and veterans who are tasked with restoring America’s ability to send humans into orbit.

These pioneering flights to the International Space Station aboard commercially built crew capsules will be the first leaving US soil to put people into orbit since the iconic space shuttle program ended in 2011.

For the past seven years, Nasa astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft—at a cost of some $80 million a seat.

“This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back, that we are flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said as he unveiled the crew members in Houston, Texas.

An unmanned Boeing flight test is scheduled for later this year, with the first crew on board in mid-2019, Nasa said.

For SpaceX, a demonstration flight with no passengers is set for November 2018, and the first manned flight set for April 2019.

Those named for the crew test flights for Boeing’s Starliner include Nasa shuttle veterans Eric Boe and Christopher Ferguson, along with Nicole Aunapu Mann, a naval aviator who was named a Nasa astronaut in 2013 and will be making her first flight to space.

“It is going to be a proud moment for America,” Mann said.

Published: 05-08-2018 08:53

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