Former Edwards test pilot, now astronaut makes second launch to ISS

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Few Airman astronauts have aborted their space flight mission after launch, and even fewer received the opportunity to relaunch just months later.

Col. Nick Hague, an astronaut, is scheduled for a second mission to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz MS-12, March 14, 2019, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Hague, who is set to join the Expedition 59 crew, will conduct hundreds of research investigations and technology demonstrations to advance scientific knowledge of Earth, space, physical and biological sciences, according to NASA.

On Oct. 11, 2018, Hague and his commander, Russian astronaut Alexey Ochinin, were forced to abort their mission when their rocket booster failed to detach once they reached zero gravity.

“We (were) at the apex of our trajectory, and I’m staring out there at the curve of the Earth, and the darkness of space … you’re so close you can touch it,” Hague said. “And to have that ripped out of your hands, that’s devastating.”

As they plummeted to Earth at 4,700 miles per hour, Hague’s years of Air Force training enabled his life-saving response.

“The career I had leading up to that launch prepared me to respond to that situation,” Hague said. “It wasn’t my first in-flight emergency – we had those when I was doing flight testing out at Edwards Air Force Base (California). I think what you realize as you gain these experiences is the best thing you can do in the situation to help yourself is maintain your cool and trust in your training.”

Hague began training with NASA in 2013, and learned to handle maintenance activities, maintain the space station as a national laboratory for research and conduct space walks to fix issues outside the station. A sizable amount of his training also included learning to fly the Soyuz with Ochinin.

“There’s this common understanding we have with each other … that even though I may be speaking broken Russian to him, and he’s speaking broken English to me, we understand each other,” Hague said. “We’ve been able to sit in the simulator over the last year and a half, to the point where we know how each other is thinking and we anticipate each other’s moves and we’re backing each other up … it feels like a well-oiled machine and no different than any crew I could put together in the U.S. – we’re in it together.”

Though his arrival to the ISS was temporarily delayed, Hague knows the information gathered from this mission will be worth it.

“The mission we’re doing is so important,” Hague said after his initial launch. “It’s a mission where we’re going up there and collecting data so the scientists on the ground can better understand our world, they can better understand our bodies, they can better understand the world around us … and that’s a vital mission that’s benefitting all of humanity.

“Just because there’s some bumps in the road, or some obstacles, doesn’t mean we give up,” he continued. “We learn from our failures and we move forward.”

(Editor’s Note: Quotes from this article were pulled from The Air Force Podcast with Col. Nick Hague, NASA Astronaut. The podcast in its entirety can be found under related links.)