Today, NASA moved another inch closer.
"This is a big deal for our country and we want America to know that we are back, that we are flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said as he unveiled the crew members in Houston, Texas.
The announcement signals a milestone in the USA space program, with its shift to the private sector for ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.
He'll be joined by Christoner Ferguson, a retired Navy captain. The group includes former space shuttle flyers, ex-military test pilots, rookies, and - critically - a cadre of four astronauts who've already been testing and providing feedback on the new commercial ships for years.
Ferguson grew up in a rowhouse on Amity Road in Northeast Philadelphia, playing wire ball and stickball and delivering the Inquirer for pocket money, he said in a 2005 Inquirer article.
"What we see now is a much great emphasis on safety", Ferguson said, regarding differences between the shuttle program. NASA picked Crew Dragon and Starliner to replace the space shuttle for ISS transportation back in 2014.
Nicole Aunapu Mann: Mann was born in California and is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.
After announcing the crews, Bridenstine engaged in a largely lighthearted question-and-answer session with the selected astronauts, who expressed their delight in being selected and anticipation in flying on these next-generation vehicles. It will be Glover's first space flight.
Robert Behnken is from St. Ann, Missouri. That flight is now projected to lift off in April of 2019. Since then, the space agency has turned to private space firms, like SpaceX, to oversee cargo runs to the ISS, while sending United States astronauts there on Russian rockets.
Douglas Hurley calls Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He became a NASA astronaut in 2013. He piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127 and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission.
The announcement happened Friday morning at the Johnson Space Center.
For the past seven years, NASA astronauts have hitched rides to the orbiting outpost on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft - at a cost of some $80 million a seat. "To meet NASA's requirements, the commercial providers must demonstrate that their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station".
Eric Boe: Boe was born in Florida and grew up in Atlanta.
Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class. It will be Mr. Cassada's first spaceflight.
Suni Williams: Williams grew up in Needham, Massachusetts.
"This is the stuff of dreams ... this is a test pilot's dream", he said.
The Pasadena native accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flying time in more than 40 aircraft, with 400 carrier landings and 24 combat missions.
Michael Hopkins was born in Lebanon, Missouri, and grew up on a farm near Richland, Missouri.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon that will be used for Demo-1 arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July.
NASA seems confident these dates will hold, and that the commercial crew program is finally on the home stretch. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said. This research has led to dramatic improvements in technology, infrastructure and medicine, and thousands of spinoff technologies that have improved quality of life here on Earth. 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.