Gallery: NASA Announces astronauts who will fly first Commercial Crew missions

Crew Dragon is slated to be launched in April 2019. Some, however, deem that target ambitious. The astronauts will travel in the new Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon.

A NASA official further informed that Behnken, Hurley, Boe and Mann are the space agency's first astronauts to be named to the test flights of new USA spacecraft since its announcement on March 1978 of the space shuttle's first orbital flight test crews. The test launch will be her first trip to space.

NASA announced the nine names of the astronauts that will get in the Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules for both the test flights and actual first missions. That flight is now projected to lift off in April of 2019. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. Josh Cassada of the Navy, who will be making his first voyage into space.

"Predicting launch dates can make a liar out of every one of us", acknowledged Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX.

Today, NASA moved another inch closer.

Over the past several years, NASA has pushed the private sector to maintain a presence in low-Earth orbit.

"It's a step toward broadening the means of access to space so it's not just a government monopoly", he said.

The seven men and two women pumped their fists in the air and gave thumbs-up as they strode onto the stage to cheers from the crowd. Bob Behnken of the Air Force and Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000.

Nicole Aunapu Mann is a California native and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. She has a master's in mechanical engineering. He is a Navy commander, aviator and test pilot with nearly 3,000 hours flying more than 40 different aircraft.

Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class.

Georgia Tech graduate Eric Boe is going back to space.

Assuming both test flights go to plan, NASA has contracted six missions from each company, with as many as four astronauts expected to be onboard each mission.

As for being the only non-NASA guy on board, Ferguson explained later during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" program that Boeing always uses company test pilots for first flights "and the Starliner is no exception". He has since worked with Boeing to develop and test the Starliner spacecraft.

Robert Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. He flew aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2008 and 2010.

Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He, too, has a history on the space shuttle: Ferguson piloted Atlantis for STS-115, was the commander of Endeavour on STS-126, and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission. A rookie to spaceflight, Cassada was selected by NASA in 2013.

Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, but considers Needham, Massachusetts, her hometown.

Those tests, which involve brief stays at the ISS, will be followed by two others that will deliver the astronauts to extended stays at the orbiting station. The cargo missions started in 2012. He earned three master's degrees while serving in the Navy. "This is a test pilot's dream".

At a press conference Friday, Williams said she is excited to use Boeing's craft on the worldwide stage and to help prepare for NASA's future space projects.

Michael Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri, and grew up on a farm near Richland, Missouri.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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