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Astronaut Friday: Doug Hurley

Doug Hurley astronaut portrait.

Today’s featured astronaut is a veteran of two spaceflights. He piloted both STS-127 and STS-135, logging over 27 days, and traveling greater than 11 million miles, in space to date.

Prior to his selection by NASA in 2000, Doug Hurley was a fighter pilot and test pilot for the U.S. Marine Corps. Hurley, who served with the Marines for more than 24 years, has logged upwards of 5,500 hours in over 25 aircraft.

Hurley is currently training for his third spaceflight assignment, a commercial crew flight aboard SpaceX’s CrewDragon. He is assigned to the Demo-2 flight, which will be the first crewed flight for the vehicle. Assuming no further delays, it is slated to launch sometime next year

We can’t wait for Hurley’s SpaceX launch. In the meantime, here are some fun facts about this commercial crew astronaut!

He piloted the final Space Shuttle mission.

On July 21st, 2011, Atlantis touched down on Earth, bringing the STS-135 mission to a close and NASA’s Space Shuttle Program to an end.

Hurley piloted STS-135, which marked the 37th and final shuttle mission to the ISS, as well as the 135th and final flight of the Space Shuttle Program.

Doug Hurley in orbit during STS-135 mission.

The flight carried the “Raffaello” Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) to drop off spare parts and supplies on station. A MPLM was a large pressurized container used on Space Shuttle missions to transfer cargo to and from the ISS.

The crew of four spent 12 days in space, traveled over 5 million miles, and orbited the Earth 200 times. This was the only time a shuttle crew of four flew to the ISS, since there were no shuttles available for rescue after the Discovery and Endeavour were retired. It was also the first time since 1983 that a shuttle mission flew with four. 

Hurley part of an astronaut couple

They say it’s great to share interests with your partner. What about sharing spaceflight experience? 

Hurley and Karen Nyberg met in 2000 when they were both chosen for that year’s astronaut class. The two were married nine years later and have one son. 

Both have been to space since their nuptuals, which makes for a heck of a work trip. They are currently one of two active astronaut couples, joining Bob Behnken and Megan McArthur. 

The history of astronaut couples goes back to the first class of female astronauts with Rhea Seddon and Hoot Gibson. The first woman in space, Russian Valentina Tereshkova, married fellow cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev, who was the third Russian into space.

High pressure and long hours can often lead to strong connections. It’s no wonder that training for and flying into space led to so many bonds.

A Green Wave in space

Hurley grew up in upstate New York, but made the trek to the Gulf Coast for college. In 1984, he enrolled at Tulane University in New Orleans, studying civil engineering.

In his four years there, Hurley graduated magna cum laude with honors and was a distinguished graduate of Tulane’s NROTC program. That led him to his 12 years in the Marines before he was selected in the astronaut class of 2000.

When he flew into space in 2009, he became the first Green Wave alum to travel into space. 

Since test pilot and aviation experience was a prerequisite for joining the astronaut corps before the shuttle, it’s unsurprising that the U.S. Naval Academy and Air Force Academy lead the way in putting graduates into space. The Naval Academy boasts 52 astronauts and the Air Force Academy 36. MIT is the next on the list, and the first non-military academy, with 34. Purdue is also on the list with 20, but also boasts the second U.S. astronaut in space (Gus Grissom) and the first person to walk on the Moon (Neil Armstrong).

Of the astronaut candidates in the most recent class from 2017, one came from the Naval Academy, one from the University of North Carolina, one from the Air Force Academy, two from the University of San Diego, one from Boston University, two from MIT, one from Kansas, one from the U.S. Military Academy and one from Stanford.


Learn more about NASA astronaut Doug Hurley here.

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