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Space

NASA shifts two astronauts to SpaceX Crew Dragon mission as Boeing continues working Starliner delay

NASA's Nicole Mann (L) and Josh Cassada (R) were training on Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, but delays of the program prompted NASA to move them to SpaceX's Crew Dragon on a mission launching fall 2022. Photo: NASA
NASA's Nicole Mann (L) and Josh Cassada (R) were training on Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, but delays of the program prompted NASA to move them to SpaceX's Crew Dragon on a mission launching fall 2022. Photo: NASA

The delay of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is prompting NASA to reassign two of its astronauts to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on a mission to the International Space Station next year.

NASA works with the two private aerospace companies to transport its astronauts to the station and back.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has launched three astronaut missions since last year. But Boeing is still trying to certify its vehicle for human spaceflight and is working through a lengthy delay after a failed attempt at an uncrewed launch of the vehicle earlier this year.

NASA said because of the delay its moving astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada over to a SpaceX mission called Crew-5 slated to launch fall 2022.

The two, both spaceflight rookies, had been training on Boeing’s vehicle. The shuffle, according to NASA, gives them crucial spaceflight experience. NASA said Mann will serve as commander of the mission and Cassada will serve as pilot.

Mann is a colonel in the Marine Corps and F/A-18 test pilot. She was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2013 and was named to the agency’s Artemis Cadre, a group of astronauts training for future moon missions.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to train on another new spacecraft – the SpaceX Crew Dragon – and appreciate the teams at NASA who have made that possible,” she said. “I am ready to fly and serve on the International Space Station.”

Cassada is a physicist and Navy test pilot. He was also selected as an astronaut in 2013.

“It has been great to spend the last few years training with the joint Boeing and NASA team, and I am really looking forward to now have a chance to also train with SpaceX on a new spacecraft,” he said. “Cross training on both programs is a unique opportunity to learn, but also to provide valuable insight to future astronauts flying these spacecraft.”

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore, Mike Fincke, and Suni Williams, who were assigned Starliner missions, will continue to work and train with Boeing for future flights. Astronaut Jennette Epps, another spaceflight rookie, is still assigned to the Starliner vehicle, flying on its first scheduled crew mission.

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