NASA today announced the names of nine USA astronauts who will be the first to ride to the International Space Station on private spacecraft made by Boeing and SpaceX. SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year.

What makes the mission stand out even more is the fact that Ferguson is retired from NASA and now works for Boeing.

Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the astronauts during a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

It's been a long journey for NASA and its commercial partners to get both crew capsules up and running. He retired from NASA in 2011 and has been an integral part of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner program.

NASA was established by the federal government during the Cold War to project American prestige and beat the Soviets, all in the name of space science. The Boeing's first mission will be flown by Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams, and the SpaceX mission by Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly aboard the Crew Dragon first mission. Mann's flight with Boeing will be her first to space. Ms. Williams previously logged 321 days in orbit on two stays aboard the space station, most recently returning to the Earth in 2012.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended NASA pursue a backup plan for getting astronauts to the ISS, as its contract with Russian Federation to send them to the station via Soyuz launches in Kazakhstan ends at the end of 2019. He went to space again during Discovery's last mission in 2011.

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The first SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the space station will include NASA astronaut and Navy test pilot Victor Glover, who has logged more than 3,000 hours flying 40 different aircraft and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who has logged 166 days in space so far.

"What we see now is a much great emphasis on safety", Ferguson said, regarding differences between the shuttle program.

NASA has named nine astronauts to crew the first test flights and missions of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule.

After announcing the crews, Bridenstine engaged in a largely lighthearted question-and-answer session with the selected astronauts, who expressed their delight in being selected and anticipation in flying on these next-generation vehicles. He was a test pilot and colonel in the Marine Corps before coming to NASA in 2000 to become an astronaut.

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 contracts for travel to the International Space Station were awarded in 2014. "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in the statement.