NASA names astronauts for first manned US space launches since 2011

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

NASA is naming 8 astronauts to fly SpaceX and Boeing's new spaceships - here's how to watch the announcement live

Today, NASA announced the first astronauts who will launch aboard the first crewed spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing - and other spaceflyers were quick to congratulate the new teams.

American astronauts haven't launched from the US since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades.

The first Boeing trip to the orbiting outpost includes Josh Cassada, who has never been in space before, and Suni Williams, who is one of the most experienced American astronauts in history, having spent a cumulative 321 days in orbit through her career.

"What an exciting and incredible day", Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said at the announcement at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Former chief astronaut Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley - who served as co-pilot on the final shuttle mission - will fly on SpaceX's Dragon during its first manned flight. Nicole Aunapu Mann will be making her first flight; she completed her astronaut training in 2015.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013. Williams previously logged 321 days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012. They were assigned to ride on the first major flights of Boeing and SpaceX's Commercial Crew vehicles.

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to develop the crew capsules to pick up where the space shuttles left off in 2011, while also paying billions for cargo deliveries to the space station by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

NASA/Kennedy Space Center (via Flickr); Boeing; Shayanne Gal/Business InsiderAn illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft (left) and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft (right).

Boeing plans to do an uncrewed flight test of its CST-100 Starliner later this year or early next year.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, on current timelines, is set to make its maiden crewed flight in April. He has a doctorate in engineering and is a flight test engineer and colonel in the Air Force. However, a NASA spokesman said that does not guarantee those four astronauts will be assigned to an actual mission. At first, it seemed like a logical idea - private space enterprises are rapidly becoming all the rage in the United States and beyond, with more than one private company already planning their own space stations for the decades to come.

The Commercial Crew program, on the whole, has experienced numerous delays and budget shortfalls as Boeing and SpaceX work to bring crewed launches back to the U.S.

The two pairs of Nasa crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and worldwide astronauts to be announced at a later date. He then added that it looked the launch date was finally approaching, and that the mission would actually happen. The spacecraft will dock and undock autonomously to the space station before flying their crew back to Earth.

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will be launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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