NASA Announces Names of Four Astronauts for Commercial Flights to ISS

The American space agency NASA on Thursday announced the names of first four astronauts who will be flying aboard spaceships to be built by private companies Boeing and SpaceX in coming years.

According to the sources familiar with the issues, the commercial spaceflights to the International Space Station (ISS) are scheduled to start in 2017. NASA’s commercialization of space flights will help restore US access to space after a six-year gap following the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail – a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars”.

The four selected astronauts include the most experienced astronaut of the quartet Sunita Williams, 49. Williams is a Navy captain and helicopter pilot who has already spent nearly a year in space, i.e. nearly 322 days.

According to NASA, Sunita holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut, at 50 hours and 40 minutes.

The other selected astronauts include Doug Hurley, 48, a retired Marine colonel, who has piloted two space shuttle missions, Eric Boe, 50, and Robert Behnken, 44. Both Boe and Behnken piloted two space shuttle missions, including the final one, STS-135, in July 2011.

NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders said in a statement that they are very excited to have such an experienced team of astronauts working with the Commercial Crew Program, who will be flying on flight test missions.