Service Members Named to Explore Space
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTION, May 10, 2004 Four service members were among 11 candidates NASA has chosen to be the next generation of space explorers, officials announced May 6.
Marine Corps Maj. Randolph Bresnik, 36, and Air Force Maj. James Dutton, 35, were chosen to be space shuttle pilots. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Cassidy, 34, and Army Maj. Shane Kimbrough, 36, will be mission specialists.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration grounded shuttle flights after the Feb. 1, 2003, breakup of Columbia above north-central Texas on as it maneuvered for a planned landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The shuttle was at about 203,000 feet, was going about 12,500 mph, or Mach 18, and was slated to land in about 15 minutes when the accident occurred.
All seven astronauts aboard were killed; five were serving U.S. military officers. NASA suspended the shuttle flight program while investigations have followed the Columbia tragedy. On April 30, 2004, the agency announced its intent to resume the flight program in Spring 2005.
Bresnik is an F/A-18 pilot and experimental test pilot based in San Diego, Calif. The Fort Knox, Ky., native has degrees from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Dutton, an F/A-22 test pilot stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., has flown combat air patrols over northern Iraq. He was raised in Eugene, Ore., and has degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Washington.
Cassidy, a Navy SEAL based in Norfolk, Va., completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star for leading his SEAL team on 23 missions. The Salem, Mass., native has degrees from the U.S. Naval Academy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kimbrough, born in Killeen, Texas, served as a platoon leader in an Apache attack helicopter company during Operation Desert Storm, and has degrees from the U.S. Military Academy and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Four civilians -- three school teachers and an orthopedic surgeon -- will join the service members when their training begins this summer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
During a news briefing welcoming the new candidates, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said the astronauts are the "next steps in the new exploration vision."
"The class is made up of pilots and engineers who will help us develop the next-generation vehicle, scientists who will do research to help humans live and travel in space, and three new educator astronauts to help ensure a new generation is ready for the challenges of exploration," he said.
According to NASA's Web site, astronaut candidates undergo a training and evaluation period of up to two years, part of which requires completion of military water survival and scuba qualification. Candidates must pass a swimming test during their first month of training. The test includes swimming three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swimming three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes.
Candidates also undergo land survival training, jet ground and flight training, shuttle orbiter systems training, space station systems training, science and engineering briefings, and orientation tours at all NASA centers, including the Kennedy Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.
The candidates are the first announced by NASA under President Bush's new space initiative. Earlier this year, the president committed the United States to long-term human and robotic programs to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the moon as well as future exploration of Mars. "We will give NASA a new focus and vision for future exploration," the president said.