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Sunita Williams Among Nine Astronauts Named by NASA For New Human Space Programme

The crew for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems

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Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS, the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019. (IANS)

Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

The astronauts will fly on spacecarft developed by SpaceX and Boeing as part of the the US space agency’s Commercial Crew programme to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS) on private US spacecraft.

Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS, the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019.

“For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said while announcing the names of the astronauts.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station, The Washington Post reported.

NASA on Thursday confirmed a delay in the first piloted flights of Boeing and SpaceX.
NASA on Thursday confirmed a delay in the first piloted flights of Boeing and SpaceX. Pixabay

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. The crewed demonstration flight, with two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, on the other hand, will likely perform two crucial test flights next year, instead of this year as planned.

Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts.

Also Read: NASA’s SLS Rocket Gets Major Hardware Boost

The crew for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test and SpaceX’s Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems.

After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify the systems meet the agency’s safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the US space agency said. (IANS)

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NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk Due to Lack of Small Spacesuit

"An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen"

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U.S. astronaut Anne McClain waves before the launch of Soyuz MS-11 space ship at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after U.S. space agency NASA canceled the first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been due to step into history books in a spacewalk Friday, during the final week of Women’s History Month.

But McClain will now give up her place on the mission to her male colleague Nick Hague, NASA announced late Monday.

“Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA, spacesuit, women
FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch attends her final exam at the Gagarin Cosmonauts’ Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

“McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”

Nearly 60 years after the first human blasted off into space, less than 11 percent of the 500 plus people who have traveled to space have been women, and spacewalk teams have either been all-male or male-female.

McClain and Koch were both part of the 2013 NASA class that was 50 percent women.

NASA said the decision to change the plan was made in consultation with McClain after a spacewalk last week.

“Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” wrote spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz on Twitter.

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The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue. Pixabay

“In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.”

The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue.

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Others said they were sad that a milestone moment on women’s space exploration had been deferred, but safety came first.

“I’m super disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday but I’m also super supportive of astronauts having the authority to say ‘I would be safer using a different piece of equipment’,” wrote Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the U.S. nonprofit The Planetary Society.

“An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen.” (VOA)