NASA Selects Elite Astronaut Team For First Commercial Spaceflights

Space travel is back, baby! Not that it ever truly stopped, but with the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA has been transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) by way of Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. That's set to change with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which will see Boeing and SpaceX offering commercial spaceflights from U.S. soil.

NASA has selected four astronauts to train and prepare for commercial spaceflights from the private sector. They include Robert Behnken, Eric Does, Douglas Hurley, and Sunita Williams, all of which will work closely with Boeing and SpaceX to develop their crew transportation systems and provide crew transportation services and from the ISS.

Launch America

"I am pleased to announce four American space pioneers have been selected to be the first astronauts to train to fly to space on commercial crew vehicles, all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail -- a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars."

This is also a big deal for Boeing and SpaceX. NASA awarded both companies big contracts, including $4.2 billion to Boeing to finalize its CST-100 and $2.6 billion to SpaceX to ready its Dragon spacecraft. Each one can accommodate up to seven astronauts, and do so for millions of dollars less per space traveler than it costs to hitch a ride with Soyuz.

Once the test program is completed and certified by NASA, Boeing and SpaceX will conduct between two and six crew rotation missions to the space station. Looking longer-term, the hope is to set foot on Mars sometime in the 2030s.
Tags:  NASA, boeing, SpaceX