Astronaut Randy “Komrade” Bresnik flew to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket today, the latest chapter in UT’s 35-year track record with NASA flight missions.
Expedition 52 flight engineer Randy Bresnik. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Bresnik earned his master’s degree in aviation systems from UT Knoxville through the UT Space Institute program in 2002. He is the 10th alumnus to complete a NASA mission in space.
In 1982, Hank Hartsfield (’71) became the first UT graduate in space when he piloted the space shuttle Columbia on its fourth launch, a weeklong mission with former Apollo astronaut Ken Mattingly.
Since then, nine other UT alums—eight from the UT Space Institute and one from UT College of Medicine—have totaled more than a thousand days in space.
The Soyuz MS-05 rocket is launched with Expedition 52 on Friday, July 28, 2017. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
In fact, if measured as its own country, UT would have sent more people to space than all but five countries: the United States, Russia, Germany, Japan, and China.
Today’s flight is Bresnik’s second. He flew a mission on the space shuttle Atlantis in 2009 with fellow UTSI alum Barry Wilmore (’94).
A native of Fort Knox, Kentucky, Bresnik was selected as an astronaut in 2004. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Marine Corps in May 1989. He was a F/A-18 Test Pilot and was deployed to Kuwait to fly combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He has trained as a Cave-a-naut with the European Space Agency to test living deep beneath the Earth’s surface, and as an Aquanaut for NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO) 19.
Here’s a look at other UT-NASA astronaut milestones during the era:
- 1984—Hartsfield serves as mission commander for the inaugural flight of the space shuttle Discovery, a mission lasting almost eight days.
- 1985—Rhea Seddon (’73), a medical doctor, becomes the fifth US woman in space during a weeklong flight aboard the Discovery.
- 1985—Hartsfield serves as commander on the space shuttle Challenger for what would prove to be its final flight, a seven-day mission.
- 1991—Seddon completes a nine-day mission as mission specialist on the Columbia.
- 1993—Seddon completes her third and final mission, a 14-day stint on the Columbia as mission specialist.
- 1995—Chris Hadfield (’92), a Canadian pilot, serves as mission specialist on an eight-day flight of space shuttle Atlantis.
- 1998—Joe Edwards Jr. (’94) pilots the space shuttle Endeavour on a nine-day mission to the Russian space station Mir.
- 1998—Dominic Gorie (’90) pilots the Discovery on the final shuttle mission to Mir, a 10-day mission.
- 1999—Jeffrey Ashby (’93) pilots the Columbia on his first trip to space, a four-day mission.
- 1999—Scott Kelly (’96) pilots the Discovery on an eight-day mission with a primary goal of repairing the Hubble telescope.
- 2000—Gorie pilots the Endeavour on an 11-day mission, its last that didn’t involve a visit to the International Space Statiton.
- 2001—Gorie again pilots the Endeavour on an 11-day mission, this time to change out crews on the ISS.
- 2001—Hadfield becomes the first Canadian to spacewalk, during a 12-day Endeavourmission. Ashby serves as pilot, putting UT two grads in space at the same time for the first time.
- 2002—Ashby pilots the Atlantis on an 11-day mission delivering key parts to the ISS.
- 2006—William Oefelein (’98) takes part in his only shuttle mission, piloting the Discovery on a 13-day mission.
- 2007—Kelly commands the Endeavour during a mission lasting nearly 13 days.
- 2008—Gorie serves as commander on a 16-day visit to the ISS aboard the Endeavour.
- 2009—Wilmore and Bresnik take part in a 10-day mission to the ISS aboard Atlantis, the second time two UT grads have been in space together.
- 2010—Kelly heads to the ISS for his first long-term stay, right at 160 days.
- 2011—Wilmore serves as CAPCOM, the person at mission control who communicates with the astronauts, for the final mission of the space shuttle program.
- 2012—Hadfield heads to the ISS as lead flight engineer on a 145-day mission. While there, he records a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” It currently has 36 million views on YouTube.
- 2014—Wilmore heads to the space station for a 167-day mission. At his request, NASA installs the SEC Network on the station.
- 2015—Kelly returns to the ISS for a 342-day study to compare his physiology after a year in space with that of his twin brother, who remained on Earth.