Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Louis-area native among astronauts picked for SpaceX launch

Louis-area native among astronauts picked for SpaceX launch

And now, each new SpaceX launch becomes a media sensation -- while NASA's public profile is fading.

Sunita Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown.

The astronauts assignments will be for both the test flights of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, which won't dock with the ISS, as well as the first post-certification missions for both private companies, which will head to the space station.

Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules - five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station.

The mission which ended Friday delivered 5,946 pounds (2,697 kilograms) of equipment, experiments and provisions to the orbiting research laboratory, including an AI-powered helper bot for the research lab's six-person crew, a spare hand for the Canadian robotic arm, and an externally-mounted NASA instrument to monitor the health of plants on Earth.

SpaceX and Boeing's new spacecraft are shaping up to be two solutions to that problem. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks.

Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson, who commanded NASA's last space shuttle mission in 2011, appears to be a sure thing for the first Starliner crew, based on advance reports. It now looks like SpaceX will be the first to launch humans on its crew Dragon spacecraft, set for April 2019.

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- Alan Shepard, John Young are some of America's first explorers into the great unknown, but Friday NASA will announce who will be America's next space pioneers. The race to get astronauts to the space station first is real; a USA flag that flew on the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and the last shuttle flight in 2011, awaits the victor.

Bridenstine also introduced the crews of the first missions to the International Space Station by each new craft, which will follow the test flights. Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's global partners in the space station at a later date, the agency said. "The result is that we'll have a better and safer spacecraft", he said.

Astronauts, from left to right, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams. Josh Cassada of the Navy, who will be making his first voyage into space. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the USA has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.

Ferguson, who has been involved from the start in the Starliner's development, flew three shuttle missions as a Nasa astronaut. Boe piloted two shuttle flights. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by the middle of next year. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. American astronauts will be flying American built rockets into space from American soil.

The commercial crew program will allow expanded use of the space station.

The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away.

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