NASA announced the four members for the planned August SpaceX mission to rotate crew on the International Space Station and it includes the first member of the U.S. Space Force flying to orbit.
The crew member, which Space Force calls a guardian, has already been to space, but for NASA as a member of the Air Force.
Piloting the SpaceX Crew-9 flight will be U.S. Space Force Col. Nick Hague, who previously had a scary initial ride the Air Force technically considered having reached space in 2018 that ended with an abort. It happened as he and a Russian crewmate cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin aboard a Soyuz capsule blasted away from a malfunctioning booster after launch from Kazakhstan.
“It went from normal to something was wrong pretty quick,” he said after the abort. “We weren’t going to make it to orbit that day, so the mission changed to getting back down on the ground as safely as we could.”
The altitude of the Soyuz capsule passed the 50-mile mark the U.S. considers for awarding astronaut status, although it’s shy of the Karman line, which is the internationally recognized line for having made it to space at around 62 miles high.
“I got to experience a few seconds of weightlessness and I was able to watch a few things float around in the capsule,” he said. “I was also able to look out the window primarily to make sure, ‘Hey, are we in a good attitude? Are we stable? Are we ready to come back down?’ But also to look out the window and realize, you know, looking down at the curvature of the Earth and out into the blackness of space, and realizing I got close but it wasn’t going to be this time.”
The duo got another shot, though, five months later in 2019, and that time they made it past the Karman line along with NASA astronaut Christina Koch. Hague spent more than 200 days on board the ISS. So Crew-9 will be his third or second flight to space depending on who you ask.
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