The FINANCIAL — 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, according to NASA.
“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. “I’m very excited for both Mark and Jack and very much look forward to watching them on the ISS.”
Both Vande Hei and Fischer are members of NASA’s 2009 Astronaut Class. 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.
Vande Hei, a colonel in the U.S. Army, hails from Falls Church, Virginia. His Army service includes a tour in Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort and, later, Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which he led an Army space support team. He is a graduate of the Army’s Airborne School, Ranger School, Engineer Officer Advanced Course, and Command and General Staff College.
Vande Hei joined NASA in July 2006 to serve as a Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) at the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. He was selected as an astronaut candidate three years later and, after completing his initial astronaut training in July 2011, went on to serve as the Astronaut Office’s director of operations in Russia. Following his return, he resumed work in the Astronaut Office’s CAPCOM Branch until his mission assignment. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1989, and a master’s degree in applied physics from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in 1999.
Fischer’s mission will begin in May 2017, when he and his crewmates Fyodor Yurchikin of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA will join Vande Hei, Misurkin and Tikhonov on the station for Expedition 52.
Fischer, hailing from Louisville, Colorado, is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Fischer served two combat tours in Southwest Asia, flying the F-15E Strike Eagle during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Southern Watch. He then became a test pilot, flying more than 50 different types of aircraft, including all types of the F-15 and F-22 Raptor. After two test assignments, Fischer served as an Air Force Fellow in Washington, with rotations serving under the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
After finishing his astronaut candidate training in July 2011, Fischer also served as a CAPCOM in mission control. Additionally, he performed technical roles supporting Soyuz and space station operations. He most recently served on the Astronaut Office’s Exploration team working on the next generation of human space exploration vehicles, NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and Commercial Crew Program. Fischer graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering, and earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge in 1998.