Americans may have been disappointed at the retirement of the Space Shuttle back in 2011, but now NASA has named a crew of astronauts who will journey on the first test flights of SpaceX and Boeing's commercial spacecraft.
Veteran astronauts Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita "Suni" Williams will train for the first flights of the Dragon crew capsule and the CST-100.
SpaceX and Boeing were announced to receive billion dollar contracts that would allow them to build and operate spacecrafts that would allow the transport of astronauts to the International Space Station last year. SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft and Boeing's CST-100 were given approximately $6 billion dollars combined to complete the projects that will ideally hold a crew of seven and be launched in 2017.
"These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a new trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Although NASA has been relying on the Russian Soyuz rocket since the Space Shuttle's retirement, this method isn't exactly cheap or ideal, especially with the strained relationship between the United States and Russia. With the success of the Commercial Crew Program, NASA will not only be able to reduce the cost to send astronauts into space, but also bring American astronauts back into American rockets.
Hopefully, this project will lay the foundations for future travels to places like Mars for people who might not be exactly astro-physics savvy.