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NASA reveals astronauts who will begin new era of commercial space flight

Boeing Starliner, SpaceX Crew Dragon set to launch to humans next year

HOUSTON – NASA announced Friday who will be on Boeing and SpaceX's first crewed test flights and the first to fly to the International Space Station on American-made rockets from U.S. soil.

Astronauts Eric Boe, Nicole Aunapu Mann and former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson will launch on the first test flight for Boeing's Starliner CST-100 and astronauts Suni Williams and Josh Cassada will launch on the first Starliner flight to the International Space Station, after the test flight. 

On the test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon will be astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the first to fly to the space station on the SpaceX capsule.

Next year, NASA will begin sending astronauts to space from Cape Canaveral again after an eight-year gap.

Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a $6 billion contract three years ago to develop spacecraft to become the replacement vehicles to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Those spacecraft -- SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 -- are currently months away from their first uncrewed test flights from Cape Canaveral. The first launches with astronauts on board are expected next year.

Four commercial crew astronauts -- Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams -- have been training on both private space companies' capsules. However, on Friday NASA announced which spacecraft the astronauts will launch in on the test flights and added four more to the commercial crew class of astronauts.

Of the eight NASA astronauts, many are experienced with trips to the International Space Station via the Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz spacecraft. For Mann, who goes by Duke, Cassada and Glover the trips on commercial craft will be their first journeys into space.

[RELATED: Pad, ULA rocket 'very ready' to launch NASA astronauts from U.S. soil again]

Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Boeing Defense, Space and Security president Leanne Caret and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell to make the crew announcement.

Cabana, 69, said the only thing that could make Friday's announcement better is if he, too, were returning to space. He said he's holding out hope, after all, the late astronaut John Glenn was 77 for his last shuttle flight.

"We want everyone to know that we're back, we're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," Bridenstine said.

NASA's 13th administrator then announced the astronauts and their many accomplishments, one-by-one, bringing them out on stage.

The astronauts were greeted by cheers from the hundreds who came out for the announcement and fist bumps and high-fives by their fellow commercial crew members.

According to NASA's most recent target test flight dates, SpaceX is expected to have the Crew Dragon certified for human spaceflight no earlier than April 2019, and Boeing's craft will be certified by the middle of next year. Because of that, the astronauts selected for one spacecraft or the other will be the first to launch from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

Crew Dragon will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A and Starliner will liftoff on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Commercial crew members from NASA's international partners will be revealed later.

News 6 was at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for the announcement Friday morning. Follow updates below:

 


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