NASA today announced the astronauts who will be flying on the first SpaceX and Boeing crewed spacecraft.
The astronauts were greeted with waves of applause at the Johnson Space Center. Some are preparing for their maiden spaceflights, while others are veterans of the Space Shuttle program. They will launch on flight tests of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, and then fly to the International Space Station for the first crewed missions on U.S. spacecraft since 2011.
SpaceX Crew Dragon Flight Test
The two astronauts selected to fly on SpaceX’s first crewed spaceflight, slated for April 2019 on a Falcon 9 rocket, are veterans of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Doug Hurley served as a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corps, joining NASA with the Astronaut Class of 2000. The first Marine to fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and with more than 5,000 flight hours in over 25 aircraft, Hurley piloted Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-127, a mission to the ISS to install hardware on the exterior of the station, as well as Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-135, the last flight of the Space Shuttle.
Bob Behnken, a flight test engineer and Air Force colonel, will be joining Hurley on the first flight crewed flight of the Dragon spacecraft. Also a member of the Astronaut Class of 2000, Behnken has more than 1,500 flight hours in over 25 different aircraft. He flew as a Mission Specialist on Endeavour on STS-123, an ISS assembly mission, and on STS-130 to the space station for a second time.
Boeing CST-100 Starliner Flight Test
Three astronauts will fly on the first flight test of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft—scheduled for launch in mid-2019 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket—two Space Shuttle veterans and a rookie preparing for her first spaceflight.
Eric Boe, also part of the Astronaut Class of 2000, is a colonel in the Air Force and a former fighter pilot with more than 6,000 flight hours in over 50 aircraft, including rotorcraft such as the Bell UH-1N. He piloted STS-126 on Endeavour to deliver supplies to the ISS, as well as STS-133 on Discovery, the final flight of that craft.
Retired Navy captain Chris Ferguson will also be on the first crewed flight of the Starliner. Ferguson has more than 5,700 hours in high performance aircraft and piloted Space Shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, an assembly mission to the ISS. He also commanded Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis on STS-135, the final flight of the Space Shuttle. After retiring from NASA in 2011, Ferguson has worked to help Boeing develop the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for human flight.
With the two Space Shuttle astronauts will be Nicole Aunapu Mann, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps and F/A-18 test pilot who flew 47 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of the Astronaut Class of 2013, Mann will be making her first flight to space aboard the Starliner.
SpaceX Crew Dragon Mission to the ISS
The first operational mission of the Crew Dragon to the ISS will be flown by an astronaut with experience on the space station and a naval aviator preparing for his first flight to space. Mike Hopkins, a member of the Astronaut Class of 2009, is a colonel in the Air Force who served as a flight test engineer on C-17s and C-130s. He flew on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS as a flight engineer on Expeditions 37 and 38, spending 166 days on the space station between September 2013 and March 2014. His time on the station included two spacewalks for a total EVA time of almost 13 hours.
Joining Hopkins for the first crewed SpaceX mission to the ISS will be Navy commander and test pilot Victor Glover. The naval aviator has nearly 3,000 flight hours in more than 40 different aircraft, including 24 combat missions and 400 carrier landings. An astronaut of the class of 2013, Glover has served as a test pilot for the F/A-18 family of aircraft, including the Super Hornet and EA‐18G Growler, and his mission with SpaceX will be his first flight to space.
Boeing CST-100 Starliner Mission to the ISS
The Starliner’s first operational mission to the ISS will carry two Navy test pilots, one preparing for his first spaceflight, and another with experience as commander of the ISS. Suni Williams flew on two Space Shuttles as well as a mission aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. Williams flew on Discovery in STS-116 to join the ISS crew as a flight engineer for Expedition 14 and 15, and on Atlantis to return to Earth in STS-117. In 2012, she flew on a Soyuz craft to the ISS as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and then assumed the role of commander for Expedition 33. Williams previously held the record as the woman with the most spacewalks and EVA hours, with seven spacewalks accounting for 50 hours and 40 minutes. Peggy Whitson now holds the records for most spacewalks by a women with 10 and most spacewalk time with 60 hours and 21 minutes—we will have to see what Williams’ missions have in store for her in the coming years to see if she can take either of the records back.
Joining the veteran NASA astronaut will be will be Josh Cassada, a Navy commander with more than 3,500 flight hours in over 40 different aircraft. Cassada, who is preparing for his first spaceflight, flew 28 combat missions in the P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft and served as a test pilot for the P-8 Poseidon. Cassada also served as an instructor in the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and he was selected by NASA as part of the Astronaut Class of 2013.
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA