When the U.S. government did away with the space shuttle program, ripples were sent throughout NASA, but that could be about to change. Today on the agency’s Facebook page and website, it said it will make a “major announcement” about the return of human spaceflight to the U.S.
NASA plans test flight with astronaut
In this early announcement, NASA said it is already planning to launch a test flight to the International Space Station. That flight will carry an astronaut from NASA to the ISS in 2017. The agency doesn’t appear to have selected anyone yet, as it states: “Whoever is chosen will have the goal to ahieve certification of the system.” That certification includes the test flight to the ISS.
The U.S. has been relying on Russia to transport its astronauts and equipment to the ISS since the end of the space shuttle program. Needless to say, that association could be coming to an end because of the ongoing crisis with Ukraine. In April, NASA suspended most of its cooperation with Russia, although in June, NASA TV planned to air a Russian spacewalk at the ISS. By August, however, the U.S. and Russia were again at odds over the space station.
NASA to expand scientific research
By returning to human spaceflight in 2017, the agency said it will return a “critical capability” to the U.S. while also “greatly expanding the scientific research potential of the orbiting laboratory.” Those who want to watch the announcement live can do so on NASA TV.
Officials will hold a press conference from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There will be a question-and-answer session with reporters during the news conference. In addition, reporters can ask “more detailed questions” about the program during a teleconference that will be held soon afterward.
Participating in the news conference today are NASA Administrator Charles Bolden; Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy Space center; Kathy Lueders, manager of the Commercial Crew Program; and former ISS Expedition crew member Mike Fincke.
The agency will continue to release more details throughout the day on its Commercial Crew Program blog. NASA also published a teaser video on YouTube ahead of today’s announcement: