July is shaping up to be a great month for America. This year we celebrated our independence, U.S.A. won the Women’s World Cup, the U.S. is about to become the first nation to visit Pluto on the 14th, and now, NASA has announced the four astronauts that will usher space travel back to American soil.
I’d like to introduce you to Robert Behnken, Sunita Williams, Eric Boe, and Douglas Hurley. These four astronauts will begin training now with the hopes of launching in 2017.
“These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail, a trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a blog post.
Bolden explained that sending commercial flights to space is “all part of our ambitious plan to return space launches to U.S. soil, create good-paying American jobs and advance our goal of sending humans farther into the solar system than ever before.”
Since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia to take astronauts to the International Space Station, which costs upwards of $76 million dollars a seat.
Instead, NASA has over 350 American companies working across 36 states on their commercial crew initiative. These four brave men and women will fly on commercially owned and operated spacecraft, built by contractors, not NASA – which will take the cost from $76 million to $58 million per astronaut. This means that every dollar the U.S. invests in commercial crew is a dollar we invest in ourselves, not the Russian economy.
Last year NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the ISS. NASA hopes that by outsourcing the missions to low-Earth orbit they can focus on flying to deep space – even Mars!
I can barely contain my excitement!