On August 3, 2018, NASA revealed the names of nine astronauts who will be aboard of the first space capsules, the Boeing Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon, to take off from the United States in seven years.

After suspending space shuttle program in 2011, NASA relied on Russian partner Roscomos “Soyouz” system to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) at the cost of $80 million per seat.

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NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos announced a new partnership for human exploration of the moon and deep space, which will include building the first lunar space station.
 

But the United States wants to take back independence within the stars, with the first launch planned for 2019. “Today’s announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation’s leadership in space,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a official statement.

(SpaceX)

However, resuming launches comes with a twist: the program will be the first to be operated by private contractors. Back in 2014, NASA asked both Boeing and SpaceX for takeover by 2019. For now, NASA has contracted “six missions, with as many as four astronauts per mission, for each company”.

Both companies should start unmanned test flights around the end of 2018. SpaceX will operate its first launch with passengers in April 2019. Boeing, affected by abort engine problems, rescheduled initial launch to a date yet to be defined.

The astronauts are traditionally assigned to their mission by the Chief of the Astronaut Office, currently Patrick Graham Forrester, according to their level of experience and the required skills for the mission. Here is the list of the nine astronauts and their respective mission, with their bio as provided by NASA:

Boeing Crew Flight Test

  • Eric Boe, an astronaut since 2000 who piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.
  • Chris Ferguson, a retired Navy captain, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135. He retired from NASA in 2011 and has been an integral part of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner program.

  • Nicole Mann, an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in more than 25 aircraft. Mann was selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be her first trip to space.

SpaceX Demo-2

  • Bob Behnken, who joined the astronaut corps in 2000 and performed six spacewalks totaling more than 37 hours.
  • Doug Hurley, a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut. He piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127 and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission.

Boeing operational mission

  • Josh Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft. He was selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be his first spaceflight.
  • Suni Williams, a test pilot from the Navy that rose to the rank of captain before retiring. Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.

SpaceX operational mission

  • Victor Glover, a Navy commander, aviator and test pilot with almost 3,000 hours flying more than 40 different aircraft. He made 400 carrier landings and flew 24 combat missions. He was selected as part of the 2013 astronaut candidate class, and this will be his first spaceflight.
  • Mike Hopkins (Call sign: Hopper), a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. He has spent 166 days on the International Space Station for Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.