In a statement released Thursday, NASA and its Commercial Crew partners revealed more details of the effort to carry astronauts from the U.S.to the International Space Station.
NASA says astronaut Josh Cassada will fly alongside Williams when the mission to the ISS launches.
Leading up to the ceremony at the Johnson Space Center here, Bridenstine said it was a historic moment for the agency: "We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil".
It is worth mentioning here that the team of nine astronauts comprising of eight active NASA astronauts and one former astronaut, will launch on Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Dragoncapsules to the International Space Station that will begin in the mid of 2019. While both companies had recently said they would conduct their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019.
He will be joined by Eric Boe, who flew on two shuttle missions and was another astronaut selected for commercial crew training in 2015, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, a member of the astronaut class of 2013 who will be making her first flight.
NASA has unveiled the first astronaut crews to fly on private spaceships built by SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX and Boeing were picked by NASA in 2014 to develop spacecrafts to return that capability to the United States, and both companies are slated to launch their first crewed missions in the next year.
On the SpaceX vessel will be astronauts Doug Hurley, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken and Michael Hopkins.
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Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two spaceflights each, will lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles. Companies like Boeing and SpaceX give the agency the freedom to focus on its deep space human exploration missions and planetary science goals.
Ferguson isn't now a NASA employee, though he served as an astronaut from 1998 to 2011 and commanded the final Space Shuttle mission. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.
For the missions to be successful, both capsules will have to launch, travel safely to the International Space Station (ISS), dock and undock autonomously and then safely bring the crews back to Earth. "Both partners said they really wanted to have an uncrewed flight test to make sure the integrated rockets, spacecraft and re-entry systems are all working as created to be able to ensure the integrated system is functioning".
Only seven astronauts in history have been the first to fly on a brand-new US spacecraft. NASA officials have said it is critical to understanding the challenges of long-duration spaceflight and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and for deep-space missions, including to Mars.
Those tests, which involve brief stays at the ISS, will be followed by two others that will deliver the astronauts to extended stays at the orbiting station. Josh Cassada and Suni Williams will be the second crew for the Starliner and Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the second crew for the Dragon. It has also been paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.