Meet NASA's new astronauts

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. "For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during the event.

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the space station will include NASA astronaut and Navy test pilot Victor Glover, who has logged more than 3,000 hours flying 40 different aircraft and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who has logged 166 days in space so far.

SpaceX and Boeing are shooting for a test flight of their capsules to the International Space Station by the end of this year or early next, with the first crews flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer.

Boeing's first crewed Starliner test flight will be flown by NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson in mid-2019.

Astronauts, from left to right, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams.

Behnken, Hurley, Boe and Mann are Nasa's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new U.S. spacecraft since the March 1978 announcement of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews.

It's been a long journey for NASA and its commercial partners to get both crew capsules up and running. They're both the result of NASA's Commercial Crew Program: a almost 10-year-long, $8-billion effort to maintain access to orbit for U.S. astronauts.

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The other four astronauts that NASA has selected, however, aren't yet publicly known.

The crew missions have been delayed repeatedly because of the technical challenges and difficulties of making spacecraft safe for humans.

In fact, NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX billions to fly Americans to and from the International Space Station. 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. Each astronaut flew on two shuttle missions, including Hurley on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. It will be Cassada's first spaceflight.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, on current timelines, is set to make its maiden crewed flight in April.

SpaceX and Boeing's new spacecraft are shaping up to be two solutions to that problem. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement.

This is an endeavor that will return astronaut launches to USA soil for the first time since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans. Similarly, the first Starliner is being now being outfitted for launch at Kennedy Space Center, and the test flight's Atlas V Centaur upper stage-never flown in the dual-engine configuration-ships to Florida in August.

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