NASA picks 4 astronauts to fly 1st commercial spaceflights in couple years; all test pilots

IndustriesAssociated Press

NASA has selected four veteran astronauts to lead the way back into orbit from U.S. soil.

On Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden named the four who will fly on capsules built by SpaceX and Boeing. Each has test pilot experience and has flown twice in space.

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The commercial crew astronauts are: Air Force Col. Robert Behnken (BANE-kin), until recently head of the astronaut office; Air Force Col. Eric Boe, part of shuttle Discovery's last crew; retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley, pilot of the final shuttle crew; and Navy Capt. Sunita (SUN-ee-tah) Williams, a former resident of the International Space Station.

The companies are aiming for test flights to the space station by 2017. It will be the first human launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida, since the shuttles retired in 2011.