At a ceremony at Nasa’s Manned Spacecraft Centre in Houston, Texas, the US space agency showed off the nine individuals who will work with two commercial projects.
“Having an opportunity to introduce you to these American heroes is unique,” said Nasa adminstrator Jim Bridenstine.
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.
The four other commercial crew members – Eric Boe, Nicole Mann,Josh Cassada and Suni Williams – are still with NASA.
Meanwhile, SpaceX’s demo mission 2 aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is targeted to launch in April 2019, will carry Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The first post-certification mission will be crewed by Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins. “This is the stuff of dreams,” said Mr Glover.
In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8bn in contracts from Nasa to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the station, the orbiting laboratory. Since 2011, the US had been relying on Russia for catching a ride.
Before the event in Houston, Mr Bridenstine said it was an historic moment for the agency: “We are going to launch American astronauts from American soil. That’s a big deal.”
The Washington Post said Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX told the crews on Friday: “What a sacred honour this was to be part of this programme and to fly you. Thank you. We take it very seriously. We won’t let you down.”
While SpaceX said it intended to start flying the crews by April of next year, Boeing has said only that it would fly Nasa’s astronauts by the middle of next year
“This is just the beginning of daring missions that this country is embarking upon,” said Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Centre.
“It’s an exciting time for human space flight and an exciting time for our nation.”
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