Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Science | By Celia Watts

Estonian descendant Nicole Aunapu Mann selected for American space flights

Estonian descendant Nicole Aunapu Mann selected for American space flights

The space agency announced on Friday that the nine astronauts will launch on the first crewed test flights and missions of new commercial spacecraft built and operated by The Boeing Company and SpaceX.

Taking the stage Friday before a huge American flag, Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX, told the crews: "What a sacred honor this was to be part of this program and to fly you".

When the Starliner approaches the International Space Station, the docking will be fully autonomous as the spacecraft manoeuvres toward an adapted docking port for commercial spacecraft.

The first nine astronauts include- Eric Boe, Christopher Ferguson, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Josh Cassada, Sunita Williams, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014.

Glover is the fourth Cal Poly graduate to become an astronaut. Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander, is Boeing's director of crew and mission systems. It will mark Mann's first trip to space. "I'm just grateful to be able to usher in this new era of American spaceflight". While both companies had recently said they would conduct their first test flights with astronauts on board by the end of this year, those flights are now scheduled for 2019. Both have been in the astronaut corps since 2000; combined, the duo has four Space Shuttle missions and more than 58 days of spaceflight between them.

Seven men and four women will be go into orbit on crew capsules built by Boeing and SpaceX. "We take it seriously".

Ticket prices for customers who want a seat on the SpaceX's Crew Dragon or Boeing's CST-100 Starliner have not yet been revealed. In any case, SpaceX is now the presumed leader of the race to capture the flag left on the station by the final space shuttle crew-a flag that has been waiting to return to Earth for eight years and counting. Dr Deepak Pandya, her father, said that she would start training for the 2019-20 mission.

"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013. No female astronaut has logged more spacewalk time.

"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot and you don't think it's ever going to happen to you, and it looks like it might", Hurley said, to which Bridenstine said, "Oh it better". "That's going to help all of us understand how to live and work in space".

Born in Euclid (Ohio), Williams came to NASA from the Navy where she was a test pilot and rose to the rank of captain before retiring. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft.

NASA has always been working on developing its commercial crew programme while it can focus on its space exploration projects, the report added. Boeing said only that it would fly NASA's astronauts by the middle of next year.

The space agency has reason to be eager.

The move marks a significant shift in the USA space program, which will now combine NASA-trained astronauts with private sector space capsules.

NASA's investment also aims to boost private industry, which has flocked into low-Earth orbit in recent years for tourism, the satellite industry, and more.

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