Washington: NASA and its International Space Station (ISS) partners have announced the crew members for missions to the orbiting laboratory in 2017.
The selection includes first-time space flyers NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Jack Fischer.
The Expedition 51 and 52 crews will continue important research that advances NASA's journey to Mars while making discoveries that can benefit all of humanity.
With adequate funding and technical progress on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, astronauts Vande Hei and Fischer are expected to be at the station during the first test flights of the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, targeted for 2017.
"Spaceflight assignment is one of the highlights of my job, and this is made even more special when that person has not yet flown in space,” said Chris Cassidy, chief of the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Vande Hei will be the first to fly, when he and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Nikolai Tikhonov, also a first-time flyer, launch in March 2017.
The three will join the station’s Expedition 51 crew of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos.