Michael Foale

Michael Foale is a British-American astrophysicist and a NASA astronaut. He was born, with dual citizenship, Colin Michael Foale on January 6, 1957 in Louth, England to an English father and an American mother. He was brought up in Cambridge and attended The King’s School in Canterbury. He then continued his education at Queens’ College in Cambridge, where he was a member of the Air Training Corps. In 1980, Foale was involved in a tragic car accident in Yugoslavia that killed his girlfriend and his brother; however, he was able to maintain a focus on his studies, and he received a Doctorate in laboratory astrophysics in 1982. A year later, he moved to Houston and joined NASA as the mission operations directorate. His application to be an astronaut was declined twice; however, after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, he rewrote his application essay and was selected as a candidate the following year.

Foale’s first flight to space was as STS-45 mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, which launched on March 24, 1992.  The mission ATLAS-1 carried a non-deployable payload and carried out many scientific experiments before landing back at Kennedy Space Center on April 2, 1992. One year later, Foale was launched back into space as STS-56 mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. The mission ATLAS-2 launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 8, 1993 in an effort to gather data on the relationship between the Earth’s atmosphere and the sun’s energy output. The crew also deployed and retrieved the SPARTAN-201 before landing back on Earth on April 17, 1993. His third flight to space was as STS-63 mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. The mission launched on February 3, 1995 as the first flight of the year and the first ever flight with a female pilot. Foale performed a four hour spacewalk while the crew conducted experiments and orbited near Mir. The mission ended with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 1995.

Following STS-63, Foale was chosen for an extended mission aboard the Russian Mir space station. He was launched by STS-84 on May 15, 1997 and spent four months at the station during the Mir 23 and Mir 24 missions. During Mir 23, both a fire and a collision occurred on the station, but Foale was able to advise Russian ground control of how to help. During Mir 24, Foale went on a six hour spacewalk alongside Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev to look at the damage that was done to the station. Foale was returned to Earth by STS-86 with a landing on October 6, 1997. Two years later, he was launched into space again, this time as a member of space shuttle mission STS-103. The mission launched aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on December 19, 1999. During the mission, Foale performed a spacewalk to replace components of the Hubble Space Telescope and spent Christmas Day in space. They landed back at the Kennedy Space Center on December 27, 1999.

In 2000, Foale was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside as well as an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Kent. Three years later, on October 20, 2003, Foale began a six month tour of duty as commander of International Space Station Expedition 8. During his time there, he focused mainly on Station operations and maintenance but also conducted the first two person spacewalk at the station. His time on the ISS ended on April 29, 2004. Foale currently works on Soyuz and ISS operations and spacesuit development for NASA in Houston. He is married with two children, is fluent in Russian, has never owned a brand new car, and still holds the cumulative-time-in-space record for a UK citizen.

Image Caption: Astronaut C. Michael Foale, mission commander. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia