NASA on Friday named nine astronauts for the first manned space launches from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s announcement signals a milestone in the U.S. space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.
Since the space shuttle program was shut down, the U.S. space agency NASA has had to rely on Russia to fly astronauts to space station, a $100 billion orbital research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (402 km) above Earth.
The astronauts named on Friday will be carried aloft aboard spacecraft developed by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing Co, crewing first the test flights, and then missions involving both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
The first flight is expected sometime next year.
“Space has transformed the American way of life,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”
The commercial crew program will allow expanded use of the space station. NASA officials have said it is critical to understanding the challenges of long-duration spaceflight and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and for deep-space missions, including to Mars.
In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing received contracts for $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to develop so-called space taxis that can ferry astronauts to and from the space station.
Of the nine astronauts tapped to serve as crew members, all but three are space flight veterans. Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA’s international partners in the space station at a later date, the agency said.
The Government Accountability Office said last month that launch plans could be delayed due to incomplete safety measures and accountability issues in NASA’s commercial crew program.
Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida; Editing by Tom Brown
‘The wheels are coming off’: MSNBC panel says Trump told his chief of staff to ‘walk the plank’
Two MSNBC anchors discussed Thursday's whirlwind day of breaking news in scandals involving President Donald Trump.
The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" joined Brian Williams on "The 11th Hour" to discuss Trump holding the G7 Summit at his Trump National Doral Miami golf course and the White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, confessing that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine -- before attempting to walk back his confession.
"Did things change today, do you think?" Williams asked.
"I do feel like the wheels are coming off," Maddow said.
"For the Energy Secretary [Rick Perry] to resign, you've had two cabinet secretaries resign during the impeachment proceedings already, one of whom, the current one resigning tonight, the Energy Secretary, does appear to be involved in the scheme, at least on a couple of different levels. We have got the White House Chief of Staff who was sent out today, not only to make the, 'Yes, it was quid pro quo. Yes, we did it. What are you going to make of it?' article -- which was bracing, but then to take it back, simultaneously announcing this self-dealing, which is something more blatant than we’ve ever seen from any president in U.S. history," she explained.
Rick Wilson rips Trump for holding G7 meeting at his ‘South Florida House of Bed Bugs Hotel’
Republican strategist Rick Willson blasted President Donald Trump after the administration announced that the G7 meeting of world leaders would be held at his Trump National Doral Miami golf course.
Chief of staff and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney announced the severely under-performing resort would receive the lucrative contract during a contentious White House briefing.
Trump impersonated a CNN anchor — and a US president — during epic meltdown at Texas speech
President Donald Trump offered multiple impersonations during a campaign rally in Dallas, Texas on Thursday.
Trump showed the crowd his impersonation of a president of the United States -- and a CNN anchor.
"No guns. No religion. No oil. No natural gas," Trump said. "Abraham Lincoln could not win Texas under those circumstances. Couldn’t do it."
In fact, Abraham Lincoln could not win Texas when he ran for president as the state refused to print any ballots with his name.
He then showed the audience two impersonations as part of his 87-minute speech.
"I used it to say, I can be more presidential. Look," Trump said, as he shuffled awkwardly on stage.