Boeing spacecraft astronauts see new frontier for commercial space
HOUSTON: A crew of veteran U.S. astronauts and aviators are training in Houston for a manned mission to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft, which could also be used to take tourists into space on future missions.
The Boeing Starliner mission was originally scheduled for this month, but that has been delayed to at least the end of the year or into 2020 due to technical issues and amid a shakeup in the top echelons of the space agency.
Boeing (BA.N) and rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX are competing with each other to become the first private company to resume human space flight from U.S. soil after the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
The companies, with cutting-edge technology, are among those poised to benefit most from the enormous growth opportunities many see in the world’s burgeoning commercial space industry.
NASA has been relying for years on Russian rockets and spacecraft to transport personnel to the space station. The $100 billion science and engineering laboratory, orbiting 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.
NASA is paying SpaceX and Boeing nearly $7 billion combined to build rocket-and-capsule launch systems for ferrying astronauts to the space station.
Reuters was given rare access at Houston’s Johnson Space Center to NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut and test pilot Christopher Ferguson, who will crew the ISS mission, along with other astronauts training for future missions.
The exercises included training underwater to simulate space walks, responding to emergencies aboard the space station, and practicing docking maneuvers on a flight simulator.