NASA has selected nine astronauts to ride the first commercial capsules into space. These astronauts will travel to the International Space Station. They will ride in capsules built by two private companies.
The company SpaceX is developing a capsule named Dragon. Boeing’s capsule is named Starliner.
“For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He spoke at a press conference. It was held Friday at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. There, Bridenstine announced the astronauts selected for the missions.
Space shuttle missions carry supplies to the International Space Station. But the last American shuttle voyage was in 2011. NASA shut down its shuttle program to focus on deep-space exploration. Since then, NASA has used Russian spacecraft to carry American astronauts to the space station.
But NASA has been paying SpaceX and Boeing to develop new space capsules. The companies’ capsules began carrying supplies in 2012. However, manned missions have been delayed. The companies are working to make sure the spacecraft are safe for humans.
“As a test pilot, it doesn’t get any better than this,” astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann said at the press conference. She is one of two women selected for the missions. “We’re ushering in this new era of American spaceflight. I really think it’s just the beginning.”
Both companies hope to launch test flights by early 2019.