Estonian descendant Nicole Aunapu Mann selected for American space flights

Estonian descendant Nicole Aunapu Mann selected for American space flights

NASA on Friday named four crews of astronauts that it says will begin "a new era in American spaceflight" by flying the first commercial spaceships, built by Boeing and SpaceX, in a series of test launches.

On July 8, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center, marking the last time a USA astronaut was launched into space from American soil.

"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

SpaceX's four-member crew consists of Air Force flight test engineer Bob Behnken and retired Marine Corps test pilot Doug Hurley, tasked with the Dragon's demo flight scheduled for April 2019; Dragon's first mission will be flown by Navy test pilot Victor Glover and the Air Force's Mike Hopkins.

Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing's defense, space and security business, said in a statement published Friday the company is proud to have Ferguson as part of the first Starliner crew.

As for being the only non-NASA guy on board, Ferguson explained later during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" program that Boeing always uses company test pilots for first flights "and the Starliner is no exception".

"It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the ISS", he added.

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A recent mission abort by Boeing resulted from leaking engine fuel, and U.S. astronauts have until now taken Russian Federation capsules to the space station - at a cost of up to $82m for a seat.

Boeing aims to launch a CST-100 Starliner capsule on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in mid-2019, carrying a three-person crew: NASA's Eric Boe and Nicole Mann and Boeing's own Chris Ferguson. Space X, the private space company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk put out Dragon as the first private aircraft to berth with the ISS. These missions mostly include veterans from the Space Shuttle program, though it will be Aunapu Mann and Cassada's first trips to space. The agency landed on the Commercial Crew program, which would see Boeing and SpaceX build new vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the space station.

For SpaceX's test flight, NASA assigned Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both members of several Endeavour and Atlantis missions.

SpaceX's ambitious Dragon Spacecraft rings in the good news of the successful completion of another International Space Station mission (CRS-15).

For the past seven years, Nasa astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft - at a cost of some US$80 million a seat. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft. The crewed flight tests will mostly mirror the uncrewed missions, except a flight commander and pilot will be manning each mission once they are ready for a human crew. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins spent almost six months aboard the ISS, logging almost 13 hours of spacewalks. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

Trump's Twitter praise for the astronauts did appear to gloss over the fact that NASA is actually paying SpaceX and Boeing to fly American astronauts.

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