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On the first operational mission to the International Space Station, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada would fly for Boeing. Astronauts have since been flown to the ISS aboard Russian rockets launched in Kazakhstan.

It could be the first time the nation has sent astronauts to space from USA soil since 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle Atlantis and Ferguson was the last person to step off the shuttle.

Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing's defense, space and security business, said in a statement published Friday the company is proud to have Ferguson as part of the first Starliner crew.

American space, at a ceremony to present the nine astronauts (seven men and two women) from Houston, Texas.

Both Boeing and SpaceX say their spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner and the Crew Dragon, respectively, will be ready for launch sometime next year.

This is also the first time that USA private companies will handle this routing, since NASA asked Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 to develop new launch systems to take over in 2019. The department released an alarming report that indicated the agency could see its Commercial Crew Program delayed resulting in a loss of access to the International Space Station (ISS) for nine months or possibly more. The four other commercial crew members are still with NASA.

Veterans of two spaceflights each, Mr. Behnken and Mr. Hurley will lift off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A - the same Florida launch pad where the space shuttle left Earth for the last time in July 2011 with Mr. Hurley as pilot. This will be her first trip to space.

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation". SpaceX says their test flight will happen this November, while Boeing is now targeting late 2018 or early 2019.

"As technology improves, it is certainly possible for the cost of space travel to decrease but it will take significant technology breakthroughs to truly lower the cost of space travel to a more "affordable level".

Both Boeing and SpaceX are also working with Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas company that plans to launch private space stations into orbit, to be leased to nations or companies. She is an F/A-18 test pilot with more than 2,500 flight hours in more than 25 aircraft.

It's been a long journey for NASA and its commercial partners to get both crew capsules up and running.

The Government Accountability Office recently issued a warning to NASA that it needs to have a contingency plan in place to ensure continued access to the space station, which costs the United States about $3 billion annually. The cargo missions started in 2012. Crew capsule Dragon will have full autonomy and can also be controlled by the astronauts on Board, and controllers of missions SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. Once the spacecraft is attached to the space station, it's created to stay there for 210 days.

Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first.