NASA astronaut Doug Hurley is teaming up with SpaceX on May 27 to do something remarkable for humanity: pilot the first space shuttle launch from US soil since 2011. Here’s what else you need to know about him!
Meet Doug Hurley, a 53-year-old veteran astronaut who’s about to accomplish something phenomenal on May 27. Along with friend and colleague Bob Behnken, Hurley will be part of the first space mission from the United States since the retirement of space shuttles in 2011. In the time since the shuttles’ retirement, the US has relied upon Russia’s ships to send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Hurley and Behnken are now heading to the ISS aboard a ship from SpaceX, Elon Musk‘s rocket-building venture, and should the trip from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida go as planned, it could mean a new era for American space exploration — including potential space tourism. Learn more about Hurley and the trip:
1. He’s about to make history for SpaceX and NASA. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Hurley, who piloted that last space shuttle mission in 2011. Now, Hurley is the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, and “responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery,” NASA said in a statement. Hurley and Behnken will ride upon a capsule attached to Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket, called the Crew Dragon. Upon arriving at the International Space Shuttle, the capsule will detach, and the rocket turn around back to Earth. There’s no return flight scheduled for the astronauts at this time.
2. He is married to another astronaut. Karen Nyberg, 50, spent almost six months on the International Space Station in 2013, and retired from NASA at the end of March 2019. They have a 10-year-old son together, Jack Hurley. “I think it’s a pretty cool looking vehicle and my 10-year-old son certainly thinks it’s a cool vehicle with a cool name, Dragon,” Hurley told The New York Times. “So I got the thumbs up from him and in the end, that’s all that matters.”
Doug Hurley’s official NASA portrait before the launch of Space Shuttle mission STS-135, in 2011 (REX/Shutterstock)3. He’s best friends with his co-pilot on the SpaceX mission, Bob Behnken. “One of the things that’s really helpful for us as a crew is the long relationship that Doug and I have had,” Behnken told publications, including The New York Times, in May. “We’re kind of at the point in our experience — whether it’s flying in the T-38 or executing in a SpaceX simulation or approaching and docking to the International Space Station — where we, in addition to finishing each other’s sentences, we can predict, you know, almost by body language, what the person’s opinion is or what they’re going to do, what their next action is going to be.”
4. He joined NASA in 2000. Hurley was one of just 17 astronauts picked to join the ranks of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that year. Behnken was also part of that class of astronauts, though they’ve never flown together before this 2020 mission. Throughout his two decade-long career, Hurley has completed two successful spaceflights. In fact, he was on the final space shuttle mission off American soil in July 2011, mission STS-135.
5. He was a pilot in the US Marine Corps before becoming an astronaut. Hurley flew sky high as a fighter pilot in the Marines, but he had his sights set on outer space. Before leaving the military, he rose to the rank of colonel. Fun fact: so did Behnken, but in the US Air Force.