MEET NASA’S NEW COMMERCIAL CREW
The first-ever selection of astronauts that will test the exploration capabilities of SpaceX and Boeing has now been announced
On Friday 3 August 2018 a huge step was made in incorporating privately funded organisations into government-led space exploration missions. NASA announced the first-ever ‘Commercial Crew’ that will test both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon missions. These commercial spacecraft will take astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS).
“Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on the day of the announcement. “This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space.”
NASA has worked closely with these companies in the past, having had much cooperation with
Elon Musk’s SpaceX in resupply missions to the
ISS. Although there hasn’t been the same level in teamwork with Boeing, all companies have worked closely together to ensure that any design reaches the high standards of NASA.
Nine astronauts have been selected for four missions, with two and three astronauts on the Crew Dragon test flight and the Starliner test flight missions respectively, and a further two astronauts a piece on the first actual missions of the commercial spacecraft. All of these astronauts are held in very high esteem, and all but two have experienced spaceflight previously.
After the five astronauts have successfully undergone test flights for the two spacecraft,
NASA can give its stamp of approval and allow the spacecraft and systems on further missions to the Space Station. NASA has awarded contracts for six missions to each of the companies, and they also delegated four astronauts per mission. After this, NASA will announce any additional astronauts after liaisons with their international partners in the name of consistent international collaboration.
“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” says Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston,
Texas, United States. “It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can’t wait to see them aboard the ISS.”
Sunita WilliamsStarliner first mission astronaut Previous experience includes spending a total of 222 days aboard the ISS for Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33, commanding it in the process. Josh Cassada Starliner first mission astronautThis will be his first flight, having been selected for astronaut duty in 2013 after more than 3,500 flight hours as a test pilot and Navy commander. Eric BoeStarliner test flight astronautSince being selected as an astronaut in 2000, piloted the Space Shuttle Endeavour for STS-126 and Discovery’s final flight as part of STS-133. Nicole Aunapu MannStarliner test flight astronautMann was selected as an astronaut comparatively recently in 2013, and also holds the title of lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.