NASA on Friday announced the first astronauts who will fly into space on USA -made commercial spacecraft - which will be the agency's first manned missions in years.
The announcement is a milestone in the USA space programme, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.
"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
Nine astronauts were named to ride the SpaceX Dragon and Boeing Starliner capsules - five on the first crew flights and four on the second round of missions to the International Space Station. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Boeing's first Starliner crew will include former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who commanded the last shuttle flight in 2011. He flew on two flights of the space shuttle including the final mission, Atlantis's STS-135. However, at the announcement companies sounded more confident in those revised schedules.More news: USA unemployment rate falls to 3.9 percent as hiring slows
NASA named the crews for the first four flights planned with commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX at a Friday news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The coming launches will be the first from American soil since the Space Shuttle's 2011 retirement, according to a NASA news release. NASA had originally expected the companies to have their spacecraft ready for missions to the International Space Station by the end of previous year, but neither were able to meet that target.
NASA's continuous presence on the space station for nearly 18 years has enabled technology demonstrations and research in biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, human health, physical sciences.
The eight NASA astronauts will also be joined by a Boeing astronaut. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.
NASA has spent billions developing the Space Launch System and its first flight, scheduled for 2020, will send an uncrewed capsule around the moon and back. In a call with reporters this week, John Mulholland, Boeing's program manager, said that several of the valves failed to fully close, resulting in a propellant leak.
SpaceX is shooting for a test flight without passengers in November and a crew flight in April. She has spent a grand total of 322 days in space including a stint commanding the space station and performing seven spacewalks. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq. It'll be his first spaceflight, though he has a wide range of experience with combat missions and testing aircraft.More news: Mourinho happy for Man Utd to make final Willian cash offer
Suni Williams: Williams was chosen as an astronaut in 1998 after a career in the Navy.
The contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014.
NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch.
After years of vehicle development and building anticipation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has now put the crew in commercial crew spacecraft.More news: Vintage plane's crash in Switzerland kills all 20 people on board