While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working on the solar probe that will reach closer to sun, the space agency on Friday, August 3 announced first nine names, who will fly to the International Space Station on the spacecraft developed by Elon Musk-owned SpaceX's Crew Dragon and global aviation firm Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.
This team of astronauts, including several veterans and novices, are now getting ready for NASA's first human spaceflight program from the US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. These astronauts are Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who has unveiled the names of the crew members in Houston, Texas said that "This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back, that we are flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil."
Later, the American space agency also stated that later this year they have scheduled an unmanned Boeing flight test and for SpaceX, a demonstration flight without any passenger is set to take off in November 2018.
NASA shuttle veterans Eric Boe and Christopher Ferguson as well as the naval aviator Nicole Aunapu Mann will be making their first flight to space but, before that, they will be on the test flights for Boeing's Starliner.
However, the US President Donald Trump also tweeted, "NASA, which is making a BIG comeback under the Trump Administration, has just named 9 astronauts for Boeing and SpaceX space flights."
He also said that US has the best "facilities in the world and we are now letting the private sector pay to use them. Exciting things happening."
SpaceX's first crew tests will include shuttle veterans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. After the test, both the companies will move to the main mission which will take place in April 2019.
In addition, the space agency said that NASA has contracted six missions "with as many as four astronauts permission, for each company."
Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams, who is a retired Navy captain along with Josh Cassada, a Navy pilot will be on the Starliner's first mission to space. On the same time, SpaceX flights will be manned by naval aviator Victor Glover, also a novice to spaceflight, and shuttle veteran Michael Hopkins.
The agency said, "The goal is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations."