SpaceX's Cargo Dragon is Back on Earth

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon is Back on Earth

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon is Back on Earth

Crew Dragon is a passenger version of a robotic cargo ship Dragon, and SpaceX plans to use the spacecraft to send astronauts to the global space station.

This is the first time since 2011 (when the USA's space shuttle retired) that astronauts will launch from the United States soil and from American-made spacecrafts.

Boeing's first test mission will send astronauts Eric Boe, Nicole Aunapu Mann, and Chris Ferguson aloft.

USA astronauts now take Russian capsules to the space station, with NASA paying as much as $82 million a seat. Since then, NASA has been dependent on Russia's Soyuz rockets and spacecraft, paying upward of $70 million per seat to fly Americans to and from the ISS.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, was on hand at NASA's Johnson Space Center to announce the nine new commercial crew astronauts. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight", Mr. Bridenstine said. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space", he added. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014.

Joining Ferguson on the maiden flight will be Eric Boe, a former shuttle pilot, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, who will make her first trip into space. NASA says this was actually not a requirement for certifying the vehicles, but both companies opted to perform end-to-end flight tests to ensure the entire integrated system worked properly.

The aviation companies will be conducting test flights at the end of this year and next, and astronauts will leave for the global space station Cape Canaveral in Florida next spring or summer.

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SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft came back to Earth on Friday after completion of its mission of supplying cargo to the International Space Station. Her first was a space shuttle mission that launched in 2007, and the second was a Soyuz-launched mission in 2012.

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.

Glover, a father of four, was serving as a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate when he joined NASA in 2013 - beating out a field of more than 6,100 applicants.

Victor Glover, 42, and Michael Hopkins, 49, will fly on the first operational mission of SpaceX's crewed Dragon.

For Mann, a former F-18 test pilot with the Marines, though, this will be her first space flight. By naming crews, NASA is signaling its belief that these astronauts will fly sometime soon. He is a Navy commander and test pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft.

Victor Glover: Glover is a native of Pomona, California and he has three master's degrees. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009.

Williams was selected as an astronaut in 1998 and has spent 322 days in space over the course of two missions, including one in which she was the commander of the International Space Station.

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