NASA announced today (Aug. 3) the nine astronauts who will fly on the test and maiden flights of two new U.S. crew capsules: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. Here's who will be on board.
The crews include members of a smaller group of astronauts who have already spent three years working closely with the two companies to develop human spaceflight technology. And the full contingent of astronauts will have plenty more time to practice with another other and with their vessels: Yesterday, NASA announced that crewed flight tests would not take place until well into 2019. Today's announcement added the next crucial pieces of information: who will fly on which missions. [NASA Announces First Astronaut Crews to Fly on Boeing and SpaceX Spaceships]
SpaceX Dragon crewed test flight (April 2019)
NASA astronaut Doug Hurley is a two-time shuttle veteran. Before arriving at NASA in 2000, he was in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as a fighter pilot and test pilot. During Hurley's first shuttle flight, in 2009, the International Space Station housed its largest population, with 13 astronauts aboard at once. His second flight was STS-135, the final mission of the space shuttle program and the last time U.S. astronauts launched from American soil. Now 51, Hurley has worked with astronauts in a range of capacities at NASA in the U.S. and at the Russian training center in Star City.
NASA astronaut Bob Behnken is a two-time shuttle veteran who has racked up more than 700 hours in space and completed six spacewalks. Behnken joined NASA in 2000 after flying with the U.S. Air Force, and since his time aboard the shuttle, he has spent three years as NASA's chief astronaut. During his first shuttle trip, in 2008, he helped deliver part of a Japanese space station module; during his second visit, in 2010, he helped install the station's cupola window, a frequent component in space station photographs thanks to its stunning view of Earth. Now 48, he was a mission specialist on both flights. [Take a Walk Through SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spaceship]
Boeing Starliner crewed test flight (mid-2019)
NASA astronaut Eric Boe will take his third trip to space as part of the program. He served as a pilot for the space shuttle, clocking 28 days in space. During his first shuttle trip, in 2008, he helped install new living quarters on the station; his second shuttle trip was the final voyage of Discovery. Boe, now 53, flew more than 6,000 hours for the Air Force before joining NASA as a shuttle astronaut.
NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, now 41, joined the astronaut program in 2013 and has not yet traveled to space. After earning a master's degree in fluid mechanics, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where she served as a test pilot and an operations officer, among other roles. With the Marines, she fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and flew a total of more than 2,500 hours on 47 combat missions.
Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson is now director of crew and mission operations at Boeing. Before joining NASA in 1998, Ferguson served with the U.S. Navy, completing Topgun training and flying more than 5,700 hours. A three-time space veteran, the 56-year-old astronaut served as pilot on his first mission, in 2006, and as commander on his succeeding flights, in 2008 and 2011. That includes the last flight of the space shuttle program, in 2011. During that mission, Ferguson left a U.S. flag aboard the International Space Station to wait for the next U.S.-launched crew, which would bring the banner back to Earth.
SpaceX Dragon maiden voyage
NASA astronaut Victor Glover, now 42, will be taking his first flight to the space station aboard the Dragon capsule. Glover has earned three master's degrees, all completed while he was serving in the Navy. With the Navy, he has been a test pilot and served abroad in combat and peace. Before joining NASA, he acted as a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate.
NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins has made the voyage to the space station once before, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Before joining NASA, Hopkins served in the Air Force and worked at the Pentagon, including in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His first visit to the space station, in 2013, lasted 166 days, and he conducted two spacewalks to replace a pump module on the station. Since his return to Earth, the 49-year-old astronaut has been working with NASA to support operations for the space station. [How Boeing's Commercial CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft Works]
Boeing Starliner maiden voyage
NASA astronaut Josh Cassada will be taking his first flight to the space station. Cassada earned a doctorate in high-energy particle physics, then joined the Navy; with the military, he has been an instructor pilot and has served in combat. He also co-founded a company specializing in quantum communication and computing. With NASA, the 45-year-old astronaut has worked with the Commercial Crew branch to design and test new vehicles.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams is set for her third spaceflight. The 52-year-old astronaut joined NASA in 1998 after serving with the Navy, where she flew helicopters and other aircraft. She has spent nine days living underwater and 322 days living in space. At the time of her flights, she held a record as the woman with the most time spent on spacewalks. During her first flight, in 2006-2007, she was a flight engineer; for her second flight, in 2012, she flew aboard a Russian Soyuz to the space station, where she worked on experiments, repaired part of the station's solar-power system and fixed an ammonia leak.
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Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.