Publicado: Sáb, Agosto 04, 2018
Ciencia | Por Aurelio Ontiveros

NASA announces crew who will fly first commercial rockets into space


"We're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during the presentation ceremony at the Johnson Space Center of Houston.

NASA announced on Friday the astronauts who will crew the Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft, the first time Americans will return to space in hopes of reaching the International Space Station from Florida's Space Coast since 2011.

On Friday, NASA announced the astronauts that will fly on the first flights of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's crewed Dragon capsule.

On the test flight for the Starliner will be: Eric Boe, a former space shuttle pilot who retired from the Air Force; Christopher Ferguson, a Boeing astronaut who left NASA in 2011; and Lt. Col. Nicole Mann of the Marine Corps.

Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams were named in 2015 as Nasa's "commercial crew cadre" and have been working with Boeing and SpaceX on the development of the spacecraft and the simulators that will be used to train astronauts to fly.

The second demo mission of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to launch in April 2019.

Chris Ferguson, director of Boeing's Starliner crew and mission operations, along with NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, practices the emergency egress system training at Kennedy Space Center. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the US has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.

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Of the nine astronauts tapped to serve as crew members, all but three are space flight veterans.

"The opportunity to fly in a new vehicle is any test pilot and astronaut's dream", Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who will fly aboard the Crew Dragon on its first mission, wrote on Twitter. The four other commercial crew members are still with NASA. On the right, NASA astronauts conduct a fully-suited exercise in Boeing's CST-100 Starliner mock-up trainer in early May at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

The timetable for the launches was supposed to have been for test flights to take place before the end of 2018, but both companies have faced technical issues that may delay that into 2019.

NASA awaits the completion of both companies' test flights before certifying either safe for use to return astronauts on low-Earth-orbit missions. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight".

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft will be launched on one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets, while Boeing's Starliner will hitch a lift on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5. But while the newly announced crews are excited to once again launch from Florida instead of Kazakhstan, they aren't very nostalgic for the hardware of the shuttles themselves. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.

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