Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts relaunching US space travel

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These pioneering flights to the International Space Station aboard commercially built crew capsules will be the first leaving U.S. soil to put people into orbit since the iconic space shuttle program ended in 2011. "We're flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil".

More astronaut crew members will be assigned to flight missions in the future, and both mission crews expressed the importance of adding them as soon as possible in order to reduce training challenges for both the crew and training teams.

NASA has tapped nine astronauts to become the first to launch to space from American soil since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011.

Ferguson will fly with NASA astronauts Eric Boe, a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, and Nicole Aunapu Mann on the first crewed test flight of Starliner, which is now projected to take place in mid-2019.

After successful completion of the flight tests with a crew, NASA will review flight data to verify that the systems meet the agency's safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the United States space agency said. "She is in touch with the family as her preparations are going on for the mission", she said.

"The opportunity to fly in a new vehicle is any test pilot and astronaut's dream", Mike Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who will fly aboard the Crew Dragon on its first mission, wrote on Twitter. She was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2013. "As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this".

"It is going to be a proud moment for America", Mann said. "But you know, it looks like it might".

NASA astronauts Victor Glover, a 1999 Cal Poly graduate, and Mike Hopkins have been selected to fly Crew Dragon, a private spaceship built by SpaceX, to the International Space Station in 2019.

Ferguson isn't now a NASA employee, though he served as an astronaut from 1998 to 2011 and commanded the final Space Shuttle mission.

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It's been a long trip for these astronauts. For the seven years since then, NASA has relied on Russia's pricey Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 48, and Douglas Hurley, 51, will fly together as SpaceX's first Dragon crew. Those were Behnken, Boe, Hurley and Williams. On one side, Boeing showed off its spacesuit, a handsome blue uniform, next to SpaceX's sleek black-and-white suit.

The announcement marks an important milestone for NASA's Commercial Crew program, which has paid Boeing and SpaceX $6.8 billion since 2014.

Some of the newly named crew, like Cassada, joined NASA expecting to fly on Soyuz spacecraft before any new American ship.

Glover, who also joined NASA in 2013, summed it up simply.

As for being the only non-NASA guy on board, Ferguson explained later during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" program that Boeing always uses company test pilots for first flights "and the Starliner is no exception". Dragons, meanwhile, will fly on SpaceX's own Falcon 9 rockets.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are slightly behind schedule when it comes to their crew vehicles.

Those launch targets may change.

The space agency's priority is safe, reliable and cost-effective travel to low-Earth orbit and back (at least for now) for the crewed flight tests called Demo-1 by SpaceX and Orbital Flight Test by Boeing. While a good sign for the company's Mars mission, a successful human test flight would also enable a new method of sending people to the International Space Station. But that changed Thursday (Aug. 2) when NASA rolled out a set of new launch targets. The crewed flight tests will mostly mirror the uncrewed missions, except a flight commander and pilot will be manning each mission once they are ready for a human crew. The unmanned test flight is scheduled for late 2018 or early 2019. In the meantime, NASA will still rely on Russian Federation to keep Americans flying in space. The tweet's second sentence seems to suggest that Boeing and SpaceX are paying the government to fly the missions. The cargo missions started in 2012. "Thank you very much-we take it seriously, and we won't let you down".

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