NASA names new crews for space travel

Boeing Starliner

NASA on Friday named the first nine astronauts who will fly to space on Boeing and SpaceX vehicles in 2019 - a mix of novices and veterans who are tasked with restoring America's ability to send humans into orbit. American astronauts have still traveled to space, but they've used Russia's Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $80 million per seat.

President Donald Trump fired off a celebratory tweet today to laud NASA's first astronaut crews to fly on private spacecraft built by Boeing and SpaceX, a message that also appeared to hail the president's proposed military Space Force.

He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.

NASA will announce Friday morning the names of the first astronauts to fly to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.

NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet its safety and performance requirements.

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In a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stood on a stage with a massive American flag, and introduced the crews, one-by-one, as they came on stage in distinct groups: one for SpaceX, the other Boeing.

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office said that further delays in NASA's so-called "Commercial Crew" program could "disrupt access to" the space station, which would be an enormous embarrassment for NASA after investing about $100 billion to build and operate it.

Eric Boe was born in Miami and grew up in Atlanta. He began his career with the Air Force, and served as a fighter pilot, test pilot and colonel.

Christopher Ferguson is a native of Philadelphia. He flew on two flights of the space shuttle including the final mission, Atlantis's STS-135. Mr. Ferguson will become the first former NASA astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies. The uncrewed test is planned for November; the test flight with crew aboard is set for April 2019. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

Bob Behnken: Behnken is a native of St. Ann, Missouri. She's also spent 50 hours and 40 minutes on spacewalks, an accomplishment that is second on the list for female astronauts, according to her NASA biography.

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Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He has flown to space twice before this, both on space shuttle missions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the close of 2019.

Josh Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013. It will be Mr. Cassada's first spaceflight.

Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown.

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Clockwise from top left: Sunita Williams, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Eric Boe. "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".

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