Although both Boeing and SpaceX still have a few milestones to reach before the launch of their respective astronaut-ferrying spacecraft, NASA is already looking ahead at resuming U.S.-based crewed spaceflights.
To that effect, the space agency is getting ready to appoint the crew of the first manned missions to test the CST-100 Starliner (pictured left in the photo above) and the Crew Dragon (imaged right) capsules, NASA disclosed in a news release.
These will be the first American-made vehicles to take off into space from the U.S. and ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) since the Space Shuttle Program was retired seven years ago. Their official launch is meant to provide NASA with a means to get to the ISS after its current contract with Russia to use Soyuz capsules expires in November 2019.
The big announcement will be made tomorrow during a special event hosted at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, set to begin at 11 a.m. EDT.
NASA officials first broke the news on Twitter last week, using the hashtag #LaunchAmerica, and invited the media to take part in the grand event.
“Join us on August 3 to find out which NASA astronauts will be launching from the U.S. for the first time since 2011, heading to the International Space Station on commercial crew capsules from Boeing and SpaceX.”
According to the space agency, the event will be presided by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who will name at least eight of the first astronauts designated to take the Starliner and Crew Dragon space pods for a spin “and begin a new era in American spaceflight.”
“I will be at NASA Johnson on August 3 to announce the astronauts assigned to the first crews launching on American-made spacecraft from American soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on July 25.
While the space agency has remained secretive about who might get picked for the honor of taking the first rides on board Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, perhaps so as not to spoil the great surprise, NASA officials did tell the Business Insider that only astronauts who are not currently assigned to a space mission are eligible for the test flights of the brand-new spacecraft.
Once the names of the chosen astronauts are made public tomorrow, those who have been selected will take part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session starting at 12:30 p.m.
Both Boeing’s and SpaceX’s crew pods were originally scheduled to launch on their first missions at the end of this year, blasting off into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and a Falcon 9 rocket, respectively.
However, as the Inquisitr reported earlier today, Boeing has just announced it will be delaying the entire launch schedule of its Starliner spacecrafts, aiming for a first crewed test flight in mid-2019.
Meanwhile, SpaceX seems to be carrying on as planned, since there has been no news as of this writing that the company might also push back the first manned mission of its Crew Dragon. Dubbed DM-2 (demonstration mission 2, set to follow this month’s first demo spaceflight that will be uncrewed), the spacecraft’s first passenger test flight is slated for December, per a previous report by the Inquisitr.