Feature   Armed With Science

Boldly Going: Airman Prepares for First Star Trek

Oct. 3, 2018 | BY Brad Kimberly

Hoxie, Kansas, is a very small town. On a clear night as a young boy, Nick Hague could look up at the sky and see even the faintest stars.

Now an Air Force colonel and NASA astronaut, Hague is about to see a much clearer view of the stars than he ever has before. He’s scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 11 – his very first mission.

Air Force Col. Nick Hague wears a spacesuit as he awaits more training. The facility’s lights reflect in his helmet’s visor.
Visor Lights
NASA astronaut Air Force Col. Nick Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, April 27, 2017.
Photo By: J.M. Eddins Jr.
VIRIN: 170427-F-LW859-027A

He’s a flight engineer for Expedition 57/58, a job his military career prepared him to execute. As a flight test engineer, he graduated from the prestigious U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in 2004, and he tested F-16s, T-38s and F-15s. Afterward, he taught astronautics at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

The road to NASA wasn’t so easy, though. He began applying to NASA’s astronaut candidate program while at Edwards. He was rejected. However, proving the adage that “persistence pays off,” Hague kept applying until NASA finally accepted him as an astronaut candidate in 2013. Since graduating from astronaut training in 2015, he has been training to join an elite group of explorers whose alumni include names like Armstrong, Glenn and Buzz.

Serving in the Air Force, Hague is keenly attuned to the contributions the DOD makes to space exploration.

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Air Force Col. Nick Hague, a NASA astronaut preparing for launch to the International Space Station on Oct. 11, 2018, discusses how the partnership between NASA and the Defense Department is key to ensure the viability of spaceflight.

“We’ve got a network that is scouring the skies looking for debris,” Hague said. “We’ve got people on the launch ranges that are helping us launch cargo to the space station.”

Additionally, there are search and rescue forces who are trained to help in emergencies, and a Global Positioning System that is key to navigation and orientation in space.

Air Force Col. Nick Hague, a NASA astronaut, waves from inside a Soyuz simulator.
Hague Waves
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Expedition 57 crewmember Nick Hague of NASA waves from inside a Soyuz simulator during Soyuz qualification exam activities, Sept. 14, 2018. Hague and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will launch Oct. 11 on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
Photo By: Elizabeth Weissinger
VIRIN: 180914-D-EE902-1002

“These are all fundamental services that the Air Force and DOD provide to us to make the human exploration of space possible,” he said.

As he leaves the atmosphere on his journey to the stars, Hague will look out the window, but he’s hard-pressed to describe what he’ll see.

“I’ve heard lots of astronauts and cosmonauts come back from space and say that the way you describe it never does it justice. Photos never capture the true colors of up there. I just want to try to absorb as much as I can looking out that window for the first time and just soak it all in.”