Alumni Headed to NASA & ISS

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Jackets both past and present are making discoveries and solving problems around the world — and in space.

Two Tech alumni, Robert Shane Kimbrough, MS OR ‘98, and Robyn Gatens, CHBE ‘85, are working with NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) to discover ways in which space exploration and research can positively impact humans back on Earth.

Currently, Kimbrough is the spacecraft commander of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission, which will be launching on April 22 at the Kennedy Space Center in Fla.

Kimbrough and his crew will be traveling through space to the International Space Station for an approximately 180 day visit to research various fields of science, including health and medicine.

The crew will consist of NASA astronauts Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

They will be using a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Fittingly, the mission patch features a dragon.

“The determined expression of the Dragon in the patch reflects the strength of the team and their contribution to the exploration of space,” Kimbrough wrote in a Tweet.

As part of the training for the mission, Kimbrough and his crew trained in T-38 Talon jet trainers.

“Many hours in the jet improve our space flight skills in a highly dynamic, fast-moving environment,” Kimbrough wrote in another Tweet.

Long before being selected by NASA in 2004 to train as an astronaut, Kimbrough graduated from The Lovett School in 1985 and graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point in 1989 with a degree in aerospace engineering.

Kimbrough served in the United States Army and was deployed in in Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War as a helicopter pilot in 1991.

After graduating from Tech with his Masters Degree in Operations Research, Kimbrough taught as an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy and worked at NASA as a Flight Simulation Engineer.

Kimbrough’s first visit to the ISS was in 2008 as a Mission Specialist on STS-126 and while there, went on two spacewalks, both of which were over six hours long.

Kimbrough’s second mission to the ISS was from 2016 to 2017 as a part of Expedition 49/50, when he spent several months in space completing multiple spacewalks to perform maintenance and improvements on the ISS.

To stay updated Kimborugh’s preparations until launch on April 22 for his third trip into space, follow him on Twitter at @astro_kimbrough.

While Kimborugh is getting ready for lift-off, another Tech alumni, Gatens, was named the Director of the International Space Station on March 28. Gatens had previously served as the acting director of the ISS for approximately seven months.

Gatens has worked at NASA for 35 years and started her work at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

She worked on projects focused on life support and environmental control systems for deep space exploration.

As director, Gatens will focus more on policy decisions, risk management and analysis, as well as strategy for the ISS.

Kathy Lueders, the associate administrator of Human Exploration and Operations explained NASA’s choice for Gatens as the ISS Director.

“Robyn’s leadership, experience and strategic vision for the International Space Station have been clearly demonstrated as she’s worked closely with the station team as deputy and acting director,” said Luders in a NASA Press Release. “I’m confident she will continue our efforts of maximizing the space station for science, research and technology development, including enabling a robust low-Earth orbit economy.”

Both Gatens’ work on Earth directing the ISS and Kimborugh’s work as an astronaut show the large impact that Tech alumni can have.

To read more about NASA and Gatens’ work, follow @NASA on Twitter.