NASA selects astronauts for first US commercial launch
NASA has announced thenames of the first astronauts to ride into space aboard the firstgeneration of commercial spacecraft that will return manned launchcapabilities to American soil. With the selection process complete,the astronauts are set to begin a stringent training program inpreparation for the 2017 launch of Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft.
NASA has been workingwith SpaceX and Boeing under the Commercial Crew Program to subsidizethe innovation of a new generation of advanced spacecraft with theaim of stripping the manned spaceflight monopoly from the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft.
In the long term, thisaction will have the dual purpose of making access to low-Earth orbitmore affordable, while guaranteeing American independence in theaerospace sphere.
Both the Boeing CST-100and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft are making significant stridestowards meeting NASA's stringent safety standards. May saw theCrew Dragon successfully complete a pad abort test, during which thecompany field trialled an innovative new Launch Abort System, and Boeing was granted the first-ever manned commercialspaceflight mission.
The four astronautsselected to fly aboard the CST-100 are veterans of multiple launches:
- Robert Bebuken – flewaboard space shuttle missions STS-123 and STS-130, accruing 29 daysin space including 37 hours of EVA.
- Eric Boe – crewed theSpace Shuttle Endeavour on STS-123 and Discovery on STS-133 achievinga total of 28 days in space.
- Douglas Hurley –served as pilot for the Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis duringSTS-127 and STS-135, the final mission in the program, having spent28 days in space.
- Sunita Williams –currently holds the record for longest cumulative space walk time bya female astronaut with a total EVA period of 50 hours and 40minutes. Williams served as an ISS crew member for both Expedition14/15 and Expedition 32/33, racking up an impressive 322 days inspace.
Moving forward, theastronauts will train with NASA's commercial partners to gain an indepth understanding of the next generation spacecraft.
Scroll down for NASA'svideo release commemorating the selection of the first commercialastronaut crew.