Douglas Wheelock

Douglas Wheelock is an American astronaut. He was born Douglas Harry “Wheels” Wheelock on May 5, 1960 in Binghamton, New York. The Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 is said to have inspired him to pursue astronautics. He graduated from Windsor Central High School in Windsor, New York in 1978 and immediately went on to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. After four years as a cadet, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Science and Engineering. After graduation, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Infantry Branch. In September 1984, Wheelock was designated an Army Aviator after he graduated at the top of his flight class. He then served as a combat aviation Section Leader, Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, Battalion Operations Officer, and Commander of an Air Cavalry Troop in the 9th Cavalry in the Pacific. In 1989 he was selected by the U.S. Jaycees as one of “Ten Outstanding Young Men of America,” and in 1990 he was selected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars as an “Outstanding Spokesman for Freedom”. Wheelock was eventually selected as a member of Class 104 at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and was assigned as an Experimental Test Pilot with the Army Aviation Technical Test Center post graduation. His work was primarily focused on flight testing of tactical investigation and surveillance systems in the OH-58D, UH-60, RU-21 and C-23 aircrafts. While in active duty, Wheelock attended Georgia Tech and received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1992.

In August 1996, Wheelock was assigned to the Johnson Space Center as a Space Shuttle integration test engineer, acting as a liaison for launch and landing operations of the Space Shuttle. He was subsequently chosen to be an astronaut two years later, and in August 2000 after two years of training, he became the team lead for testing and development of both the Russian Space Station Mir and the International Space Station. At one point Wheelock went to work in Moscow, Russia with the Energia Aerospace Company. He also led joint U.S. and Russian teams to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to oversee the procedures of the first four unmanned ISS resupply capsules. In 2001, Wheelock became the Crew Support Astronaut for the ISS Expedition 2 crew, which was on orbit for 147 days between March 2001 and August 2001, and for the ISS Expedition 4 crew, which was on orbit for 195 days between December 2001 and June 2002. In this role he was the primary contact for all crew needs and interactions as well as represented the crews while in space. In August 2002, he was reassigned as a Spacecraft Communicator in the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas for the ISS Expedition 8 mission. In July 2004, Wheelock served as an aquanaut during the NEEMO 6 mission aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory, where he lived and worked underwater for ten days.

In January 2005, Wheelock returned to Russia as NASA’s Director of Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. There he acted as a liaison between Star City and Houston, and was responsible for supporting Russian-based training and executive needs of NASA astronauts preparing for travel to the ISS. On October 23, 2007 Wheelock was launched into space for the first time. STS-120 took place aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. During the mission, he served as a Mission Specialist on a multinational crew to deliver the Node 2 Harmony module to the International Space Station. Wheelock performed three spacewalks during the mission and emergently repaired a solar array that had torn. Additionally, they swapped crew members from Expeditions 5 and 6. After 238 orbits of the Earth, the mission landed back on Earth on November 7, 2007. On June 15, 2010 Wheelock was launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft and headed to the International Space Station for Expeditions 24 and 25. During his stay on the ISS, Wheelock participated in multiple scientific investigations and fixed a broken pump module on the exterior of the Space Station. On September 22, 2010, he took command of the International Space Station at the beginning of Expedition 25, and became the first U.S. Army officer to command the ISS. He also became the first person to “check in” from space on October 22, from the mobile social networking application Foursquare. He returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-19 on November 25, 2010.

In 2011, Wheelock returned to active duty with the United States Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is currently a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Society of American Military Engineers, the Association of the United States Army, and the Army Aviation Association of America. He is married to Cathleen Hollen, and they have one child, Ashley.

Image Caption: JSC2007-E-08803 Astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock, mission specialist. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia