In a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA announced who would fly on the crewed test flights planned for next year of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon, as well as the first post-certification, or operational, missions by each vehicle.
"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. "It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the International Space Station".
USA astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat. NASA's last space shuttle mission, the STS-135 flight coincidently commanded by Boeing's Ferguson, flew in July 2011.
Boe is a former shuttle pilot; Mann will be making her first trip into space. Her sister Dina said that the family is proud of her achievements. "I'm just grateful to be able to usher in this new era of American spaceflight".
It is worth mentioning here that the team of nine astronauts comprising of eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut, will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station that will begin in the mid of 2019. NASA has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company. Musk confirmed that the company will have the Crew Dragon capsule hardware ready to go by this date. Thank you. We take it very seriously.
By handing off crew and cargo runs to the space station - which will keep orbiting until at least 2024 - NASA has set its sight on the moon and Mars, developing the Orion capsule and the massive Space Launch System rocket. It'll be his first spaceflight, though he has a wide range of experience with combat missions and testing aircraft.
Born in September 19, 1965, Williams, who came to the NASA from the Navy of Indo-Slovian descent, wherein she was a test pilot, was selected as an astronaut in 1998.
Both Crew Dragon and Starliner are created to carry four astronauts. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time.
"And that's going to help all of us understand a little bit more about how we live and work in space and further on for our next program Orion and SLS", Williams said. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement.
SpaceX's first NASA mission to the ISS, in turn, will include Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins.
While NASA didn't require uncrewed flight tests, both companies will be shooting them off to the ISS anyway, because you can never be too positive things won't glitch once you're 1,200 miles beyond Earth's atmosphere. Both Glover and Hopkins will remain on the ISS for an extended stay. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles. Boe, Ferguson, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a spaceflight rookie, will fly aboard Starliner sometime in mid-2019.
The space agency has reason to be eager.
Over the past several years, NASA has pushed the private sector to maintain a presence in low-Earth orbit.