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Record-setting NASA astronaut, crewmates return from Space Station

February 6th, 2020

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is helped out of the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft just minutes after she, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, landed their Soyuz MS-13 capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Koch returned to Earth after logging 328 days in space — the longest spaceflight in history by a woman — as a member of Expeditions 59-60-61 on the International Space Station. Skvortsov and Parmitano returned after 201 days in space where they served as Expedition 60-61 crew members onboard the station.
Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

After setting a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman, NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth Thursday, along with Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).

The trio departed the International Space Station at 12:50 a.m. EST and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 4:12 a.m. (3:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Koch’s extended mission will provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as the agency plans to return humans to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars.

Koch launched March 14, 2019, alongside fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Her first journey into space of 328 days is the second-longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut and also places her seventh on the list of cumulative time in space for American astronauts with one or more missions.

Supporting NASA’s goals for future human landings on the Moon, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of the Earth and a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back. She conducted six spacewalks during 11 months on orbit, including the first three all-woman spacewalks, spending 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station. She witnessed the arrival of a dozen visiting spacecraft and the departure of another dozen.

For Parmitano and Skvortsov, this landing completed a 201-day stay in space, 3,216 orbits of Earth and a journey of 85.2 million miles. They launched last July with NASA’s Andrew Morgan. Morgan also is participating in an extended duration mission on the orbiting laboratory and will return to Earth April 17.

Completing his second mission, Parmitano now has logged 367 days in space, more than any ESA astronaut in history. During his time in space for Expeditions 60 and 61, Parmitano conducted four spacewalks, totaling 25 hours and 30 minutes. He has now conducted six spacewalks in his career, totaling 33 hours and 9 minutes. Parmitano was commander of Expedition 61.

Skvortsov completed his third mission and a total of 546 days in space, placing him 15th on the all-time spaceflight endurance list.

Following post-landing medical checks, the crew will return to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, aboard Russian helicopters. Koch and Parmitano will board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, where Parmitano will be greeted by ESA officials for his return home. Koch will continue home to Houston. Skvortsov will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft to return to his home in Star City, Russia.

The Expedition 61 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, including improvements to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in an effort to extend its life and support its mission of looking for evidence of dark matter and testing 3D biological printers to print organ-like tissues in microgravity.

With the undocking of the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft with Koch, Skvortsov, and Parmitano aboard, Expedition 62 officially began aboard the station, with NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Morgan as flight engineers and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos as station commander. They will remain on board as a three-person crew until early April, when NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin will launch to the station.

 

Astronaut Jack Fischer leaves NASA to return to U.S. Air Force

June 8th, 2018

Official Astronaut Portrait of Jack Fischer in an EMU. Photo Date: February 25, 2016. Location: Building 8, Room 183 – Photo Studio. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

After nine years with NASA and 136 days in space, Astronaut Jack Fischer is returning to the U.S. Air Force. His last day with NASA will be Thursday, May 31.

“Jack brought one of the brightest minds and a great deal of enthusiasm to the Astronaut Corps,” said Pat Forrester, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We wish him the best as he continues to serve our country in the Air Force.”

Fischer, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was born in Louisville, Colorado. He earned a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fischer is an Air Force Command pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 45 types of aircraft.

Fischer was selected in July 2009 as a member of the 20th NASA astronaut class, and completed astronaut candidate training in July 2011. He has worked in the CAPCOM (spacecraft communicator), Soyuz, International Space Station operations, space station integration, and exploration branches of the Astronaut Office.

On April 20, 2017, Fischer launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for a five-month mission to the International Space Station. He served as a flight engineer on Expeditions 51 and 52. During his time on orbit, he worked on hundreds of scientific experiments and conducted two spacewalks totaling 6 hours, 59 minutes. One spacewalk was to replace an avionics box and install a connector for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and the other was to replace a failed critical computer relay box.

Find Fischer’s complete biography at:

https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/jack-d-fischer

Vice President Mike Pence swears in Jim Bridenstine as NASA administrator

April 24th, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine are seen as they talk with NASA astronauts Scott Tingle, Andrew Feustel, and Ricky Arnold who are onboard the International Space Station, Monday, April 23, 2018 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Bridenstine was just sworn in by the Vice President as NASA’s 13th Administrator. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Jim Bridenstine officially took office as the 13th administrator of NASA April 23 after he was given the oath of office by Vice President Mike Pence at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

“It is a great privilege for me to be here today, to be able to usher in on behalf of the President of the United States what we believe is a new chapter of renewed American leadership in space with the swearing-in of the newest administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine,” Vice President Pence said.

“Under Space Policy Directive 1, we will send American astronauts back to the Moon, and after that we will establish the capacity, with international and commercial partners, to send Americans to Mars. And NASA will lead the way.”

In his new role at NASA, Bridenstine takes over an agency critical to the nation’s economy, security and technological preeminence.

“NASA represents the best of the United States of America,” Bridenstine said. “We lead, we discover, we pioneer and we inspire. I look forward to our journey together.”

As part of the swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Pence and Administrator Bridenstine spoke live with NASA astronauts Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, who currently are living and working 250 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station. The astronauts offered congratulations and shared stories of their experiences on the orbiting laboratory.

Following the ceremony, which was attended by Bridenstine’s family, employees and media, the vice president and new administrator held a meeting with senior agency leadership at headquarters and NASA’s centers via video teleconference.

“The appropriations bill that is now law renews focus on human spaceflight activities and expands our commercial and international partnerships. It also continues our pursuit of cutting-edge science and aeronautics breakthroughs,” Bridenstine told agency leadership.

Bridenstine was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 19, to serve as the agency’s administrator. Prior to this position, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Oklahoma, where he held positions on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Bridenstine also is a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.

He completed a triple major at Rice University while earning his bachelor’s degree, and received his MBA at Cornell University. He has three children with his wife, Michelle.

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio retires after long NASA career

August 1st, 2017

Rick Mastracchio

Veteran NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio has retired from NASA; his last day with the space agency was June 16.

“Rick is a classmate and a friend and he has done great work for NASA, both in space and on the ground,” said Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester, who was selected as an astronaut in the same class as Mastracchio. “His breadth of experience over three decades in human spaceflight will serve him well as he moves on to his next endeavor.”

Beginning in 1987, Mastracchio worked first with Hamilton Standard and then with Rockwell Shuttle Operations Co. before coming to NASA in 1990 as an engineer. He worked in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory on space shuttle flight software, and in the Astronaut Office on ascent and abort procedures for crew members. From there, he became a Guidance and Procedures Officer flight controller, working in mission control for space shuttle ascents and entries, before being selected as an astronaut in 1996.

As an astronaut, Mastracchio logged 228 days in space on three space shuttle missions and one long-duration stay at the International Space Station. His first flight, STS-106, came in 2000, on board space shuttle Atlantis, when he and his crewmates worked to prepare the space station for its first expedition crew. He returned aboard space shuttle Endeavour for STS-118 in 2007, when as lead spacewalker, he participated in three spacewalks to install a new truss segment, a new gyroscope and a new spare parts platform on the space station’s exterior.

In 2010, Mastracchio was part of the STS-131 crew of space shuttle Discovery. He performed another three spacewalks and helped deliver 27,000 pounds of hardware, including three experiment racks and new sleeping quarters for the space station. He was then able to put the hardware to use in 2014, when he spent 188 days in space as part of the Expedition 38 and 39 crews. During that stay, he performed three more spacewalks, leaving him with a total of 53 hours spent outside the space station on nine spacewalks.

Mastracchio was born in Waterbury, Conn. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Connecticut, and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physical Science, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and University of Houston-Clear Lake, respectively.