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.
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.
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.