Thursday, July 9, 2015

The First Four

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: ReelNASA YouTube channel.

NASA issued a press release today announcing the first four astronauts assigned to the commercial crew program.

The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each require at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut on board to verify the fully-integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all systems perform as expected, and land safely.

To meet this requirement, the companies also must provide the necessary training for the crew to operate their respective vehicles. NASA is extensively involved with the companies and reviews their training plans.

The four astronauts are Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams.

Hurley was one of the four astronauts on the final Space Shuttle flight, STS-135 Atlantis in July 2011.

Williams was in Boston today for the International Space Station Research and Development Conference. She delivered the astronaut keynote address with astronaut Karen Nyberg.

In a blog article posted today, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden reminded his readers that Congress has delayed this moment by repeatedly cutting NASA's commercial crew budget.

For as long as I’ve been Administrator, President Obama has made it very clear that returning the launches of American astronauts to American soil is a top priority — and he has persistently supported this initiative in his budget requests to Congress. Had we received everything he asked for, we’d be preparing to send these astronauts to space on commercial carriers as soon as this year. As it stands, we’re currently working toward launching in 2017, and today’s announcement allows our astronauts to begin training for these flights starting now ...

Our plans to return launches to American soil also make fiscal sense. It currently costs $76 million per astronaut to fly on a Russian spacecraft. On an American-owned spacecraft, the average cost will be $58 million per astronaut. What’s more, each mission will carry four crewmembers instead of three, along with 100 kg of materials to support the important science and research we conduct on the ISS.

“B-Roll” interviews with the commercial crew astronauts. Video source: NASA YouTube channel.

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