As the Inquisitr previously reported, NASA promised to break the suspense and let us know who are the first astronauts that get to test out SpaceX's and Boeing's brand-new passenger pods.
The much-awaited announcement was made today during a special media conference held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, reports the Washington Post.
The names of the nine astronauts chosen to fly the very first four commercial missions of the Crew Dragon and the CST-100 Starliner have also been listed in a NASA blog.
The four designated crews, one for each of the spacecraft's first two missions, will embark on a new era of space travel, being the first astronauts to take off from U.S soil since 2011, when the space agency retired its Space Shuttle Program.
What's even more interesting is that NASA has finally designated a winner in the space race between SpaceX and Boeing, notes Fortune. As it turns out, Elon Musk's company will beat Boeing to the punch, becoming the first one to send astronauts to space come April.
Meanwhile, Boeing's first manned spaceflight of the Starliner vehicle is currently scheduled for mid-2019, the Inquisitr reported yesterday.
First Astronauts To Ride The Dragon
SpaceX DM-2 mission, or the manned test flight of the Crew Dragon, slated for next April:
- Bob Behnken — flight test engineer, flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavour twice, during the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, and conducted six spacewalks, racking up 37 hours of spacewalking.
- Doug Hurley — Marine Corps Colonel, piloted the Endeavor for STS-127 and the Atlantis for STS-135, the program's last mission.
First SpaceX post-certification mission:
- Victor Glover — Navy commander with almost 3,000 flight hours under his belt, performed in more than 40 different aircraft; this will be Glover's first time in space, notes NASA.
- Mike Hopkins — veteran astronaut from Expeditions 37 and 38, he already spent 166 days in space and did two spacewalks.
Both SpaceX crews are set to launch on Falcon 9 rockets from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
First Crew Of The Starliner
CST-100 Starliner test flight, due in mid-2019:
- Eric Boe — former Colonel of the U.S. Air Force, piloted the Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and the Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.
- Chris Ferguson — retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut, currently working with Boeing on the CST-100 Starliner program; piloted the Atlantis during STS-115 and commanded both the Endeavour and the Atlantis on STS-126 and STS-135.
- Nicole Aunapu Mann — Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps, a test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in over 25 aircraft, soon to embark on her first spaceflight.
First Boeing post-certification mission:
- Josh Cassada — Navy Commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft, due for his first trip to space.
- Suni Williams — Navy Captain and veteran astronaut, former commander of the International Space Station (ISS); has lived in space for a total of 322 days and has conducted seven spacewalks.
Both Boeing crews will be blasting off into space on United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, launching from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Following the big announcement, the nine elite astronauts chosen to re-launch U.S.-based crew spaceflights to the ISS took part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session, where they answered a lot of question about their upcoming missions — including if they got to choose which of the two crew vessels they will be riding in.
Check out the video below to see what the nine astronauts had to say after NASA appointed them for the first commercial missions to take off from American ground in U.S.-made spacecraft since 2011.'Space Taxi' Service
For the last seven years, every astronaut that has traveled to the ISS has made the trip aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, under a NASA contract that runs until November 2019. But the seats booked by NASA on the Russian vehicles don't come cheap, as each Soyuz berth sets the space agency back some $80 million.
Both the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner are designed to take over this task and provide ISS rides to NASA astronauts via a "space taxi" service.
The hope is that the new crew pods will be certified before NASA's contract with Russia expires, so that U.S. astronauts will continue to have a ride to work.