49-year old Indian American Sunita Williams is among four astronauts who have been selected by NASA for commercial flights to the International Space Station from US soil. The other three are Robert Behnken, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley.
Announcing the names, NASA administrator, Charles Bolden said, “These distinguished, veteran astronauts are blazing a new trail that will one day land them in the history books and Americans on the surface of Mars.”
NASA is working toward launching commercial space carriers in 2017 in preparation of sending astronauts to Mars in 2030s.
The four astronauts will be trained for commercial space flights that will return American launches to US soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector, the US space agency said.
Sunita Williams was chosen by NASA for its astronaut programme in 1998. She has spent a total of 322 days in space.