The most recent update of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programme (and its CCiCap follow-on) had one interesting point: all three of the leading commercial firms involved, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX, plan to have their own test-pilot astronauts fly the initial suborbial and later initial orbital manned launches of their spacecraft: the CST-100, the Dreamchaser and Dragon respectively. These should take place in the 2015-16 time frame.
Artists impression of CST-100 approaching International Space Station. Courtesy:Boeing
Spaceflightnow reports that NASA complies with this strategy noting that a demonstration of the safety of the said crew delivery systems is the commercial firms' responsibility as part of their contracts, NASA astronauts will apparently not be allowed to fly on initial orbital flights.
If they are not aboard, gone will the days when NASA needed glamorously-brave test pilot school graduate astronauts with"The Right Stuff" to fly on these very dangerous test missions, From now on, unlike Neil Armstrong and most of his Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle-commander colleagues, NASA's space men and women will apparently just be fare-paying passengers.
Comment by David Todd: No more heroes anymore. Perhaps this heath-and-safety-first risk-reduction stance has been forced on NASA by its insurers and lawyers. Schoolboys in the UK have been banned from playing conkers for the same reason.