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.
The SpaceX crewed test flight, now scheduled for April 2019, will be flown by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
NASA has always been working on developing its commercial crew programme while it can focus on its space exploration projects, the report added.
Prior to their maiden crewed missions, both Boeing and SpaceX plan uncrewed test flights in late 2018 or early 2019.
He said the announcement advances "our great American vision" and strengthens America's leadership in space.
"For astronauts getting ready to be assigned a flight, I really look towards the Swiss Army knife if you will". He retired from NASA after commanding the final shuttle mission in 2011, and eventually joined Boeing to help develop Starliner. Williams has the most diverse space background of the astronauts named today, having flown on both the shuttle and Soyuz and served aboard the International Space Station for two long-duration expeditions in 2006 through 2007 and 2012. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from US soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.
During the manned tests, the astronauts will be able to use the displays inside the spacecraft, communicate with mission control and practise manual controls during flight. The astronauts are, from left to right, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins, Douglas Hurley, Eric Boe, Sunita Williams, Christopher Ferguson, Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann.
The commercial crew members took to the stage during an event led by Bridenstine at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA named nine astronauts who will be on the first space flights launched from United States soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011. Mr. Ferguson will become the first former NASA astronaut to return to orbit as a company's crew member when he flies. She is a retired Navy captain and test pilot and was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1998.
"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, said. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of previous year, but neither were able to meet that target.
Crew for each flight will include at least a flight commander and a pilot.
For Crew Dragon, the now confirmed crew includes Navy commander, aviator, and test pilot Victor Glover.
Hopkins had previously spent 166 days on the International Space Station, and conducted two spacewalks. The capsules, made by SpaceX and Boeing, will ferry the astronauts and cargo back and forth to the International Space Station. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth. That is why in 2010 NASA started accepting proposals from commercial companies that were making astronaut transportation systems.