Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly into space from United States soil

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The agency announced last week the first astronauts that will fly to the space station, as the first American astronauts onboard commercial spacecraft. All but three of the astronauts are space flight veterans. Some, however, deem that target ambitious.

"This is a big deal for our country, and we want America to know we're back".

"I'm sure that there is at least one Russian language instructor out there who thinks that having me fly a USA vehicle is not a bad idea", Cassada said. The two front-runners to emerge were SpaceX and Boeing.

"I'm just grateful to help usher in this new era of American spaceflight", Ferguson told the crowd.

Boeing's capsule will be manned during the test flight by Eric Boe and Christopher Ferguson, both shuttle missions veterans, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, at her first flight to space. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly its first astronaut to ISS on a Soyuz in April 2019.

Since then, they have been in a race to see which company would fly first in what's become a sort of modern-day space race. The first full mission will send first-time astronaut Josh Cassada into space alongside Sunita Willians, who has spent 322 days aboard the space station. It will be Glover's first mission. Behnken is a retired Air Force pilot with two shuttle flights and six space walks under his belt.

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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.

Trump wasn't the only one heralding NASA's commercial crew announcement today. If all goes as planned, he could make history as the first private citizen to launch to orbit on a commercially operated space craft.

Maintaining the I.S.S. costs the federal government up to $4 billion a year, and NASA is working on plans to privatize it. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.

Michael Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri, and grew up on a farm near Richland, Missouri.

Doug Hurley - Marine Corps Colonel, piloted the Endeavor for STS-127 and the Atlantis for STS-135, the program's last mission. While in the Air Force, he flew in 55 combat missions over Iraq. He has flown to space twice before this, both on space shuttle missions.

Also onboard will be Douglas Hurley, a former Marine Corps test pilot and colonel who joined NASA in 2000. She has a master's in mechanical engineering.

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"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said.

Victor Glover: Glover was selected as an astronaut in 2013 after a career in the Navy as a test pilot.

Eric Boe was born in Miami and grew up in Atlanta. He returns to NASA after retiring in 2011. The competition asked private spaceflight companies to develop new astronaut-ready spacecraft - and Boeing and SpaceX emerged as top winners.

Bob Behnken: Behnken is a native of St. Ann, Missouri.

Boeing has leased two of NASA's old space shuttle hangars at KSC, known as Orbiter Processing Facilities, to build its Starliners and house two small robotic X-37B space planes it built for the Air Force.

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