Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly into space from United States soil

Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly into space from United States soil

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space. They will be the first Americans to launch into space from US soil since NASA's space shuttle program retired in 2011.Since then, the USA has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to carry Americans space.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back", Bridenstine said in a speech.

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

"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", said Benji Reed, SpaceX Director of Crew Mission Management.

On Friday, NASA, along with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, named the first commercial crew astronauts selected to fly aboard commercial spacecraft.

On the first human test flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, NASA selected astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann to join Boeing executive Chris Ferguson. "She is in touch with the family as her preparations are going on for the mission", she said. Among the three astronauts selected for Boeing's Starliner test flight is Nicole Aunapu Mann - a California native whose grandfather, Helmuth Aunapu, emigrated to the U.S. from Estonia just before the Second World War. Their mission is scheduled for April 2019.

Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first. As a naval aviator, she flew combat missions during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom before becoming a naval test pilot.

"I'm just really excited that we're going to take these spacecraft and show them off to our global partners", said Williams.

If those missions go well, astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover will fly the first operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station, while astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada will fly the first operational CST-100 Starliner mission.

On the SpaceX vessel will be astronauts Doug Hurley, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken and Michael Hopkins. He spent more than 40 days in space for NASA during three shuttle missions.

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It's been a long trip for these astronauts.

"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". Initially, the Space X and Boeing flights will be "test flights" and flights of crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams. As the other astronauts donned NASA patches on their blue jumpsuits, Ferguson wore a Boeing applique.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station. Mann will also make history as the first female astronaut on the inaugural crewed flight of a new US spacecraft.

When the Starliner approaches the International Space Station, the docking will be fully autonomous as the spacecraft manoeuvres toward an adapted docking port for commercial spacecraft.

Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class. SpaceX has leased NASA's historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida to launch Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Both vehicles are reusable. Boeing is also part of the United Launch Alliance (along with Lockheed Martin), a launch services company that uses launchpads at both CCAFS and Vandenberg.

The latter was confirmed by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk himself who responded to an article regarding the tentative flight schedules on Twitter.

Those launch targets may change.

SpaceX and Boeing are planning a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early 2019. If successful, the crewed flight tests will follow hopefully leading to NASA certifications for crew rotation missions. But that changed Thursday (Aug. 2) when NASA rolled out a set of new launch targets.

For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight.

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