Soon, American astronauts will launch on missions to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. That may not seem like a monumental sentence, but it’s been six years and counting since the last Space Shuttle mission launched. Since then, any astronauts journeying to ISS had to go through Russia’s Roscosmos program.
On Friday, NASA revealed which astronauts will be joining the Commercial Crew program, which will use SpaceX and Boeing vehicles to bring astronauts to ISS. Newly-named NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, Chris Ferguson, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Doug Hurley, Nicole Mann and Suni Williams will join the Commercial Crew. Bridenstine made his announcement from NASA Johnson Space Center, where these eight intrepid explorers train and work.
“Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “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. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a partnership to develop and fly human space transportation systems. NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to transport crew to the International Space Station from the United States. These integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems will carry up to four astronauts on NASA missions, maintaining a space station crew of seven to maximize time dedicated to scientific research on the orbiting laboratory.
Boeing and SpaceX are both scheduled to launch uncrewed flight tests of their crew capsules later this year. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test was given a launch window of late 2018 or early 2019 while SpaceX’s Demo-1 is set to launch in November 2018. Both are targeting mid 2019 to launch with crews. Four of the eight astronauts were assigned to these crewed missions.
Glover and Hopkins will fly on Demo-1 aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Hopkins previously flew to ISS as part of Expeditions 37/38 while Glover will be making his first space flight.
John Cassada and Suni Williams will be the primary crew for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner launch. Williams was selected as an astronaut in 1998 and has been highly decorated since then, spending a total of 322 days in space. Cassada, like Glover, will be making his first foray into space.
“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” said Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can’t wait to see them aboard the International Space Station.”
Learn more about all eight on NASA’s tumblr here.