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NASA astronauts prepare for flight on commercial spacecraft

  • NASA astronaut Eric Boe uses the Crew Part-Task Trainer, a touch-screen simulator, during a training session at The Boeing Companys Defense, Space & Security division in St. Louis, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Boeing is one of two private U.S. companies contracted by NASA to transport astronauts from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station. Its spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, is expected to have its first test flight to the space station by the end of 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)

ST. LOUIS >> Five years after the last NASA astronauts flew from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station, a new group is preparing for a trip, this time on a private spacecraft.

On Tuesday, veteran astronauts Eric Boe and Sunita Williams used simulators to practice docking Boeing Co.’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the space station. The training took place near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

The U.S. hasn’t seen a manned launch since Atlantis blasted off on the final space shuttle mission in 2011. NASA instead wanted to focus on getting astronauts on to Mars and other destinations.

The space agency is currently paying Russia to ferry astronauts to the space station but has contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to take over that task.

Both companies aim for test flights by the end of 2017.

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