NASA announces crew for the first American spacecraft launches since 2011

Astronauts Nicole Mann right and Eric Boe left bump fists in front of Christopher Ferguson after being introduced during a NASA event to announce the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and S

The agency landed on the Commercial Crew program, which would see Boeing and SpaceX build new vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the space station. Some, however, deem that target ambitious.

"For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the event attended by several members of Congress and other NASA and industry officials.

Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans.

A white SpaceX launch suit and a blue Boeing launch suit stood on display behind the astronauts on stage.

Joining Ferguson on the maiden flight will be Eric Boe, a former shuttle pilot, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, who will make her first trip into space. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, an experienced spacewalker who flew on two shuttle missions, will strap into the Crew Dragon alongside former shuttle pilot Doug Hurley.

The astronauts named today (see the full list below) are tasked with those missions, all four of which are slated to happen sometime in 2019. Williams has already spent more than 300 days in space.

The two astronauts that the SpaceX company will send later will be Mike Hopkins, who spent 166 days in the space lab, and Victor Glover, who will be making his debut. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of past year, but neither were able to meet that target.

Today, NASA moved another inch closer.

"Rockets are fun. I'll be ready, I can't wait", Williams said in an interview posted Friday on the International Space Station Facebook page.

In this illustration, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown in low-Earth orbit. In December, Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 to set the moon as NASA's next goal for astronauts.

The team consists of men and women from across America.

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Eric Boe was born in Miami and grew up in Atlanta.

It is true, however, that SpaceX and Boeing are paying to use some facilities owned by NASA and the U.S. Air Force. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013. He flew on a Space Shuttle Endeavour mission in 2008 and a Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 2011.

Ferguson graduated from Archbishop Ryan in 1979 and then earned a bachelor's of science in mechanical engineering from Drexel in 1984. "As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this". He was selected as an astronaut in 2013.

NASA has worked closely with the companies throughout design, development and testing to ensure the systems meet its safety and performance requirements.

Robert Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. He is an Air Force colonel with a doctorate in engineering. He was chosen as an astronaut in 2000. He became commander for the Endeavor mission in November 2008. He's performed six spacewalks totaling almost 40 hours.

At the helm will be Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

Josh Cassada grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He has a master's degree in physics and is a US Navy test pilot who has served in more than 20 combat missions. It will be Mr. Cassada's first spaceflight.

Suni Williams: Williams grew up in Needham, Massachusetts.

He'll be joined by Christoner Ferguson, a retired Navy captain. The cargo missions started in 2012.

"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said. SpaceX's first operational flight to the space station will also be Glover's first flight to space.

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