Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Laverne Osborne

Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly first commercial spacecraft

Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly first commercial spacecraft

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the crowd.

"We're ushering in this new era of American spaceflight".

The research taking place on the International Space Station is providing valuable information and breakthroughs for life on the ground.

Robert Behnken, Doug Hurley, Eric Boe, Chris Ferguson, and Nicole Aunapu Mann are expected to launch aboard SpaceX and Boeing-operated vehicles in 2019, providing uncrewed flight tests of both spacecraft go well first. The missions will likely include veterans from the US' Space Shuttle program, Gizmodo reported.

The firm has come a long way from first announcing its Crew Dragon ship a mere month ago.

"It's absolutely the opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann. As a naval aviator, she flew combat missions during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom before becoming a naval test pilot.

The nine astronauts, most with previous experience in orbit, will ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules to the International Space Station.

"To work and live in space is just a humbling and incredible blessing in and of itself, and now to have the opportunity to work with these great companies on something that is so important to our nation and to NASA", Glover said.

"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight", said Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Thank you. We take it very seriously.

A recent mission abort by Boeing resulted from leaking engine fuel, and United States astronauts have until now taken Russian Federation capsules to the space station - at a cost of up to $82m for a seat. Her first was a space shuttle mission that launched in 2007, and the second was a Soyuz-launched mission in 2012.

Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first.

China to put 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of United States products
The US is also considering further tariffs on another $200bn worth of Chinese goods which could come into effect in September. China has already retaliated with duties of its own, and has pledged to match the U.S. dollar for dollar with new tariffs.

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

"It is going to be a proud moment for America", Mann said. "We congratulate all the astronauts chosen to fly to the space station on commercially developed systems".

From left to right: NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins. She came to NASA from the US navy, where she was a test pilot and retired from the rank of captain. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks.

"Because of the hard work of the folks that are here, and so many others, and an administration that is absolutely committed to space exploration, the health of NASA and our space exploration program is as strong as its ever been and it's getting stronger every day." said Bridenstine.

The space agency has reason to be eager.

SpaceX's ambitious Dragon Spacecraft rings in the good news of the successful completion of another International Space Station mission (CRS-15). After that, the space agency has no guaranteed way to get its astronauts into low-Earth orbit. A NASA press release says more crew members may be added to those flights later. The crew missions have been delayed repeatedly because of the technical challenges and difficulties of making spacecraft safe for humans. NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet NASA's safety and performance requirements.

Boeing Rotocraft Systems issued the following announcement on August 3. The announcement will be aired at 11 a.m. EDT on NASA Television.

SpaceX and Boeing are planning a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early 2019.

The companies are running out of buffer.

The biographical information in this report was provided by NASA. While there's talk of pushing NASA's last Soyuz return to January 2020, the space agency won't extend the Soyuz agreement forever. Ferguson is the only non-NASA astronaut. That flight is now projected to lift off in April of 2019. "The ISS can not function without a US presence on board to maintain and operate integral systems".

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