Aug. 3 (UPI) -- NASA on Friday announced the first astronauts who will fly into space on U.S.-made commercial spacecraft -- which will be the agency's first manned missions in years.
The four missions mark the first time any spacecraft will send astronauts into space from the United States since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
"Today, our country's dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "This accomplished group of American astronauts, flying on new spacecraft developed by our commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX, will launch a new era of human spaceflight. Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space."
Eight current NASA astronauts will fly in four launches: Eric Boe and Nicole Aunapu Mann on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner test flight; Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams on the first Starliner mission; Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on the SpaceX Crew Dragon test flight; and Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins on the Dragon's first mission.
The CST-100 test flight will also include Christopher Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and current Boeing commercial astronaut. He flew aboard three shuttle missions, including the program's final mission in 2011.
The agency said more crew members will be announced later.
"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight," said Mark Geyer, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can't wait to see them aboard the International Space Station."
The missions are expected to take the astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The Starliner will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and the Dragon will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center about 10 miles away.
NASA is not yet certain exactly when the launches will be. SpaceX is targeting November for its inaugural Crew Dragon test flight, but Boeing won't launch its passenger spacecraft Starliner until late this year or early next.