Astronaut alumnus on his way to the International Space Station

by William G. Gilroy

Kevin A. Ford Kevin A. Ford

University of Notre Dame alumnus and NASA shuttle veteran Kevin A. Ford is aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that launched Tuesday (Oct. 23) for the International Space Station.

Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin are scheduled to arrive at the orbiting laboratory at 8:35 a.m. EDT on Thursday (Oct. 25). They will stay on board the ISS for five months, returning to Earth in March 2013.

During their stay, the first-ever arrival of “Cygnus,” a commercial cargo vehicle from the Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Va., will occur in December. Another two commercial SpaceX Dragon craft are also expected over the same time period, as are an additional four Russian Progress resupply vehicles.

Ford is carrying a variety of Notre Dame memorabilia with him into space.

He previously served as pilot on Space Shuttle Mission STS-128 to the ISS, which launched just prior to midnight on Aug. 28, 2009, from the Kennedy Space Center and landed on Sept. 11, 2009, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Ford, who was born in Portland, Ind., and considers Montpelier, Ind., his hometown, graduated through Notre Dame’s ROTC program in 1982 with a degree in aerospace engineering. In 1989, he earned a master of science degree in international relations from Troy State University and, in 1994, a master of science in aerospace engineering from the University of Florida. He earned his doctorate in astronautical engineering in 1997 at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Ford joined NASA as a pilot in 2000 and has had a variety of assignments, including technical duties, advanced exploration issues, and avionics and testing.

In 2004, Ford was director of operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Between 2005 and 2008, he was capsule communicator in the mission control center for six shuttle missions.

A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, Ford has 4,700 flying hours and Federal Aviation Administration commercial certificates for planes, helicopters and gliders.

Notre Dame alumnus Michael T. Good flew as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle Atlantis Mission STS-125 in May 2009 and flew on STS-132 Atlantis in May 2010.

Alumnus and astronaut James D. Wetherbee, who retired from NASA in 2005, flew six times aboard the space shuttle and is the only U.S. astronaut to command five space flights.

W. Michael Hawes, a 1978 graduate, is associate administrator for program analysis and evaluation in NASA’s Office of the Administrator.

Annette P. Hasbrook, a 1985 graduate, served as a lead space station flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.