NASA announced Friday the nine astronauts who will pilot the upcoming test flights and missions aboard the Space X Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecrafts, the first commercially developed space ships that will transport astronauts from the United States to the International Space Station, and maybe beyond.
They include astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.
“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,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, according to a statement from NASA.
The director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Mark Geyer, said the commercial flights will mark a new chapter in human space flight and the U.S. space program.
“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” Geyer said.
“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.”
The flights will mark the return of manned launches from the United States for the first time since the agency retired the space shuttle program in 2011.
NASA announced new dates for the flights Thursday, including an uncrewed Dragon launch in November. A crewed mission to ISS is unlikely before April of next year.