Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

NASA to announce new astronaut class on Friday

NASA to announce new astronaut class on Friday

President Donald Trump fired off a celebratory tweet today to laud NASA's first astronaut crews to fly on private spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX, a message that also appeared to hail the president's proposed military Space Force. While both companies had recently said they would conduct their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space".

Three of the chosen astronauts joined the corps in 2013, which was before the commercial partnership was announced. He flew on a Space Shuttle Endeavour mission in 2008 and a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 2011.

US astronauts now ride on Russian capsules to the space station.

Their successful test flight will pave the way for two different astronauts to take the Starliner to the International Space Station for Boeing's first operational mission at a later date. And now, each new SpaceX launch becomes a media sensation -- while NASA's public profile is fading.

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The US space agency, meanwhile, is working on building rockets and spacecraft that could allow humans to return to the Moon in the coming decade. The astronauts are, from left to right, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins, Douglas Hurley, Eric Boe, Sunita Williams, Christopher Ferguson, Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann.

Of the 9 astronauts tapped to serve as crew members, all but 3 are space flight veterans.

The first crew to be presented was that of the Boeing Starliner capsule, which will make a trial flight scheduled for mid-2019 and will be boosted into space from Florida's Kennedy Space Center by an Atlas V rocket of the United Launch Alliance. The first Crew Dragon post-certification mission will be flown by Victor Glover, another rookie astronaut selected in 2013, and Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days on one station mission. At the time, SpaceX's Crew Dragon (known as Dragon V2 at the time) and Boeing's Starliner (just CST-100 back then) won a four-year competition-and contracts worth billions-to fly astronauts to space. "I look forward, sir, to getting you down there at some point out in Hawthorne [SpaceX's California headquarters] and maybe you can sit next to us in the cockpit and go through flying the iPhone to dock to space station".

Williams has spent 322 days in space as part of two expeditions: 14/15 and 32/33.

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"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 at the event attended by several members of Congress and other NASA and industry officials.

Up to now, NASA has had to rely on Russian Federation to fly them there.

When you think about who's in charge of cutting-edge spaceflight in 2018, SpaceX is probably the first name that comes to mind. Ferguson is a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander who now works on Boeing's Starliner program. He also serves as a Navy commander, naval aviator and was a test pilot.

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

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