Chris Ferguson is a retired United States Navy Captain and a former NASA astronaut. He was born Christopher J. Ferguson on September 1, 1961 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, He attended Archbishop Ryan High School and then went on to Drexel University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1984. Two years later he earned his Naval Aviator wings in NAS Kingsville, Texas after being commissioned from the Navy ROTC program at the University of Pennsylvania. From there he was sent to the F-14 Tomcat training squadron in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he joined the ‘Red Rippers’ of VF-11 before being deployed aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59). While with VF-11, he also attended the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). Ferguson received a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1991 and graduated from the United States Naval Test Pilot School program in 1992. The following two years he was at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland serving in the Weapons Branch of the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate as the project officer for the F-14D weapon separation program. During this time he became the first pilot to release multiple types of air-to-ground weapons from the Tomcat. He also worked as an instructor at the Naval Test Pilot School and as an F-14 logistics officer for the Atlantic Fleet. He joined the ‘Checkmates’ of VF-211 in 1995 and completed a deployment aboard the USS Nimitz to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf to defend the Iraqi no-fly zone.
In August 1998, Ferguson arrived at the Johnson Space Center, and after his initial training, he was assigned to work with the shuttle main engine, external tank, solid rocket boosters and flight software. He also served as spacecraft communicator for the STS-118, 120, 128 and 129 missions and is recognized for his words to the crew of Endeavour: “Welcome home. You’ve given a new meaning to higher education.” His first flight to space was as a pilot of STS-115 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. The mission launched on September 9, 2006 to resume work on the International Space Station. After successfully installing the massive P3/P4 truss segment and two sets of solar arrays, three successful spacewalks, and more than 30 hours of robotic work, the mission ended with a landing on September 21, 2006. His second flight to space was as Mission Commander of STS-126. The mission launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour on November 14, 2008. While in space, the crew successfully delivered a water recycling system, two sleeping rooms, a kitchen, a space commode, exercise equipment and a combustion science experiment to the ISS. They also carried out four spacewalks and repaired a balky rotary joint used to point the solar arrays at the sun. On November 30, 2008 the mission landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
From 2009 through 2010, Ferguson worked as deputy chief of the Astronaut Office, and then retired from the Navy. Ferguson’s third and final mission to space was as Mission Commander of STS-135. The mission launched on July 8, 2011 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis while carrying the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. The crew delivered thousands of pounds of supplies and spare parts to the ISS, as well as the robotic refueling module. They also picked up a failed ammonia pump and brought it back to help NASA improve future designs. The mission was Atlantis’ final flight to space and concluded on July 21, 2011 after more than 30 years of service. That December, Ferguson retired from NASA. He currently works for The Boeing Company as director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.
Image Caption: NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, commander. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia