"Space has transformed the American way of life", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said at the event.
Here's what we know about the first-ever astronauts to take part in a new space race. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in 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. 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. Both vehicles were developed in cooperation with NASA to deliver crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. These missions mostly include veterans from the Space Shuttle program, though it will be Aunapu Mann and Cassada's first trips to space.
His father, Ian Ferguson, a computer salesman who died of cancer in 1981, prominently displayed in their house a framed autograph of Alan Shepard, the first American in space. He's spent almost 29 days in space.
American astronauts haven't launched from the USA since 2011, and the first commercial company to make that happen first will undoubtedly receive accolades.
On the SpaceX vessel will be astronauts Doug Hurley, Victor Glover, Robert Behnken and Michael Hopkins. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.
NASA's partners on the International Space Station program - the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency - are expected to assign members of their own astronaut corps to the CST-100 and Crew Dragon crew rotation flights.
"It's absolutely an opportunity of a lifetime", said Mann, who was selected as an astronaut in 2013.
The return of crew flights to USA soil will end NASA's politically inconvenient reliance on Russian Federation for transporting astronauts to the ISS.
The aerospace company calls him the first "corporate astronaut". He was a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut.
NASA has just updated its schedule for commercial crew. Mr. Hopkins logged 166 days aboard the space station in 2014. The crewed demonstration flight, with two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.
Maintaining the International Space Station costs the federal government up to $4 billion a year, and NASA is working on plans to privatize it.
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