Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Sci-tech | By Javier West

Commercial Spaceships Are Like 'Driving an iPhone,' New Astronaut Says

Commercial Spaceships Are Like 'Driving an iPhone,' New Astronaut Says

The five astronauts assigned to the first flights gathered Friday at Johnson Space Center in Houston for the announcement.

"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to US soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety and mission requirements", said the official blog.

NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann are slated for the test flight of Boeing's Starliner, accompanied by former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who now works as a commercial astronaut for Boeing. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by sometime in the middle of next year.

The first test flight for SpaceX and Boeing will be known as Demo-1 and Orbital Flight Test, respectively. The agency has contracted six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company.

No NASA astronaut has rocketed into space from American soil since July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, laden with 28,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.

In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking.

3 the assignment of eight agency astronauts, a mix of veterans and rookies, as well as one company astronaut to fly on the first set of commercial crew missions by Boeing and SpaceX.

Both vehicles will launch from Florida - Boeing's Starliner, boosted by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and SpaceX's Dragon from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

The team is split into two parts, with each group specializing in one of the spacecraft: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX's Dragon. The test flight with crew is scheduled for mid-2019.

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

She was the first person to run a marathon in space, cranking out the miles on a treadmill in the space station while the Boston Marathon was being run on Earth in April 2007. While both companies had recently said they would conduct their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019. "Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts", explained NASA in the statement. Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly with SpaceX.

The Government Accountability Office said last month that launch plans could be delayed due to incomplete safety measures and accountability issues in NASA's commercial crew program. Boeing's and SpaceX's commercial spacecraft may also open the space station - and more broadly, Earth orbit - to more privately-funded visitors and spaceflight participants from countries that do not have their own domestic crewed spacecraft and rockets. It will be Glover's first time in space.

Since 2010, that program has inched along, moving ever-closer to crewed and uncrewed test flights. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.

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