NASA has assigned astronaut Mark Vande Hei, a 1989 graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, to an upcoming mission, his second to the International Space Station. He will serve as a flight engineer and member of the Expedition 64/65 crew.
Vande Hei will work on hundreds of experiments during his mission to benefit life on Earth and learn more about living in space, according to a press release from NASA.
The space station is a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight and insights gained will help send humans to the moon and eventually to Mars, the March 9 release said. Among the experiments the crew will conduct during their mission are studies on cotton root systems and Alzheimer’s disease, and a technology demonstration of a portable ultrasound device.
The mission is scheduled to launch Friday, April 9, on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Vande Hei completed his first spaceflight in 2018 as an Expedition 53/54 crew member. He launched Sept. 13, 2017, and spent 168 days in space, conducting four spacewalks, totaling 26 hours and 42 minutes, before his return to Earth Feb. 28, 2018. Highlights from the research his crew conducted include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor, and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.
Born in Virginia and raised in New Jersey and Minnesota, Vande Hei graduated from Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in St. Louis Park, in 1985. He earned a bachelor of science in physics from St. John’s University and a master of science in applied physics from Stanford University. Now a retired colonel, he was commissioned in the Army through the ROTC program and started his career as a combat engineer. In 1999, he became an assistant professor of physics at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, before his selection as an astronaut in 2009.
Vande Hei talked with The Central Minnesota Catholic about his first trip to the International Space Station and what it’s like to view the Earth from that perspective in a podcast recorded in late 2019. In case you missed it, click here to listen: https://minnesotacatholicpodcasts.libsyn.com/voices-of-hope-a-conversation-with-astronaut-mark-vande-hei.
Photo courtesy of NASA.