American astronauts have still traveled to space, but they've used Russia's Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of about $80 million per seat.
NASA announced Friday a mix of spaceflight veterans and rookie astronauts who will launch on the first flights of new Boeing and SpaceX commercial spaceships starting as soon as next spring, several months later than previously scheduled.
The space agency said on August 3 that the astronauts will launch new generations of spacecraft made and owned by private companies like Boeing and SpaceX into low-Earth orbit and to the International Space Station in coming years.
"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back", he said. "We congratulate all the astronauts chosen to fly to the space station on commercially developed systems".
Plans will be for NASA to send four astronauts up to the station on each mission, one more than the current three-person crews.
Sunita Williams, the 52-year-old Indian-origin astronaut, will fly on Starliner's first mission with Josh Cassada.
The missions will mark the first crewed launches from USA soil since the end of the space shuttle programme in 2011.
The astronauts will fly into space on Boeing and Space X vehicles in 2019, making it NASA's first human spaceflight program since the retirement of space shuttle in 2011. Bob Behnken of the Air Force and Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel.
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. "As a test pilot, it doesn't get any better than this".
Four of the five astronauts named to the first Crew Dragon and Starliner flights are spaceflight veterans. Musk confirmed that the company will have the Crew Dragon capsule hardware ready to go by this date. "Thank you very much-we take it seriously, and we won't let you down".
Assignments for the crew flight tests and the first post-certification missions will be revealed during an event that kicks off at 11 a.m. EDT at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA's global partners at a later date.
The Starliner's long-duration operational mission will be crewed by John Cassada, a Navy commander and experienced test pilot.
Glover, who also joined NASA in 2013, summed it up simply.
Boeing has settled for a squat looking Starliner craft that resembles an Apollo-style capsule NASA used for its moon missions, meanwhile SpaceX has modified its roomier-looking Dragon cargo ship to ferry astronauts to the ISS. "That's going to help all of us understand how to live and work in space". It will be led by Robert Behnken, a flight test engineer and Air Force colonel, who flew on Endeavour twice and has completed more than 37 hours of spacewalks spread across six individual excursions. SpaceX is targeting April 2019 for its crewed demonstration flight, Demo-2. Both Glover and Hopkins will remain on the ISS for an extended stay. Boeing's spacecraft CST-100 Starliner is also expected to be reusable and will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The space agency has reason to be eager. For the last seven years, we've been forced to essentially hitchhike, catch a ride with the Russians on Russian rockets.