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NASA named the crews for the first four flights planned with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX at a Friday news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Both Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon will need to meet stringent safety requirements and prove they are fit for regular flights.

"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.

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.

Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

Trump's Twitter praise for the astronauts did appear to gloss over the fact that NASA is actually paying SpaceX and Boeing to fly American astronauts.

NASA made the announcement today (Aug. 3) here at the Johnson Space Center, with the agency revealing the eight agency astronauts and one Boeing astronaut before a cheering crowd of lawmakers, dignitaries and kids waving signs and American flags. He began his career at NASA in 2000 and piloted two space shuttle missions, one on Endeavor in 2009 and the final shuttle mission on Atlantis in 2011. The Starliner test flight will send former military personnel Eric Boe, Christopher Ferguson and Nicole Aunapu Mann on a groundbreaking mission. He came to NASA from the Air Force, where he was a fighter pilot and test pilot and rose to the rank of colonel. NASA worked closely with the companies to engineer both spacecraft.

This is also the first time that United States private companies will handle this routing, since NASA asked Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 to develop new launch systems to take over in 2019. 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).

When the Starliner approaches the International Space Station, the docking will be fully autonomous as the spacecraft manoeuvres toward an adapted docking port for commercial spacecraft.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans.

Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class.

SpaceX will fly an uncrewed test flight in November 2018 and another with astronauts on board in April 2019.

Victor Glover: Glover is a native of Pomona, California and he has three master's degrees.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are also working with Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas company that intends to launch private space stations into orbit, to be leased to nations or companies.

Michael Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri, and grew up on a farm near Richland, Missouri.

NASA is now assigning crew members to these test missions, and will work with both companies and the Eastern range to clear launch dates that will allow all science investigations and other operations on the ISS will not be interrupted. If any further delays creep up, NASA's astronauts may be temporarily stranded on Earth.


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