Nasa has named the astronauts who will fly the first missions into space on commercially provided rockets and capsules, starting next year.
Their voyages are scheduled to begin next year, and they would be the first American astronauts to launch from US soil since 2011.
After a almost decadelong hiatus, NASA plans to once again start launching piloted spacecraft from American soil, this time aboard two commercially developed vehicles, beginning in early to mid-2019.
Leading up to the ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the agency: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".
This crew is made up of three astronauts: Eric Boe, who was the pilot of the space shuttle Endeavor; Chris Ferguson, who took part in the last launch; and rookie Nicole A. Mann.
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Space X's Dragon will be tested by Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will be on the crew for that mission.
She was the first person to run a marathon in space, cranking out the miles on a treadmill in the space station while the Boston Marathon was being run on Earth in April 2007.
Although there has been talk of turning the International Space Station over to commercial parties upon the end of it's projected service life in 2025, a recent audit of that strategy carried out and released by NASA's Office of the Inspector General seems to indicate that such an extension of the ISS lifespan is unlikely.
Williams has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station since becoming an astronaut in 1998.
"Safely and reliably flying commercial crew missions for NASA remains the highest priority for SpaceX", Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management, said in a statement. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles. NASA has been paying Russian Federation for flights launched from remote Kazakhstan to the ISS ever since, banking on its Commercial Crew Program to develop a cheaper, reliable and safe American-based alternative. SpaceX is targeting November for its inaugural Crew Dragon test flight, but Boeing won't launch its passenger spacecraft Starliner until late this year or early next. Jasmin Moghbeli, a NASA astronaut candidate, shared her support, saying, "What a great time to be involved in human space exploration!" Hopkins was a member of Expedition 37 and 38 in 2013 and 2014.
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When this ship makes its maiden demonstration flight in the middle of next year, launching atop an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Ferguson will be joined by Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann.
NASA TV is broadcasting video of the announcement live from Texas.
When approved, each company is slated for six missions to the space station between 2019 and 2024, a total of 12 missions between the two companies.
There's no guarantee that either SpaceX or Boeing will stick to the schedule announced today.
The Commercial Crew program, on the whole, has experienced numerous delays and budget shortfalls as Boeing and SpaceX work to bring crewed launches back to the U.S.
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