These Astronauts Will Fly SpaceX, Boeing Spacecraft to the ISS

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But both companies have faced a series of setbacks and delays, and on Thursday the agency announced additional schedule slips. NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann, along with Boeing's company astronaut Christopher Ferguson, will fly on the Boeing Starliner test flight.

The two pairs of NASA crewmates will fly to the station with Russian cosmonauts and global astronauts to be announced at a later date.

Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the astronauts during a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

NASA has always been working on developing its commercial crew programme while it can focus on its space exploration projects, the report added.

And astronauts will fly on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner sometime after that, in the middle of 2019.

These US astronauts previously flew aboard Russian spacecraft to get to the ISS.

NASA officials have said it is critical to understanding the challenges of long-duration spaceflight and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and for deep-space missions, including to Mars. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space.

Boeing's first Starliner crew will include a former NASA astronaut who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011, Chris Ferguson, who is now a Boeing employee. Boeing and Space Adventures, the USA company that arranged space tourist flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, have a partnership that could allow paying passengers to ride in a fifth seat on CST-100 missions for shorter-duration missions. "The person who could do a spacewalk, do some robotics, had a test background if that was required for the mission at hand, and so really looking for a crew member that touches all those bases was really critical going forward", Behnken said.

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Bob Behnken: Behnken was chosen as an astronaut in 2000 and has been to space twice on two shuttle missions.

On board Starliner's first extended mission will be NASA veteran Sunita Williams, a retired Navy captain and one of the most experienced American astronauts in history, and Josh Cassada, a Navy pilot making his first flight to space.

The space agency selected eight of its finest active astronauts, plus one retired astronaut, from a wide array of backgrounds. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011.

On the left, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, fully suited in SpaceX's spacesuit, uses the display inside a mock-up of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorne, Calif., during a testing exercise on April 3.

Both companies will also conduct abort system test flights to ensure the astronauts can safely escape should their rockets go awry.

The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.

NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.

Maintaining the International Space Station costs the federal government up to $4 billion a year, and NASA is working on plans to privatize it. (BA) to the punch when it comes to flying astronauts to the International Space Station.