Author Topic: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap  (Read 6188 times)

Offline George CA

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The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« on: 05/05/2008 02:35 AM »
We hear of 'Class of 98" etc. when speaking about astronaut assignments, but with the upcoming gap of five years or even more coming, along with less flights and less crews per flight, what impact could this have on both recruiting astronauts and the aspirations of those training now that may not even make a flight by the end of 2010?

We hear a lot about how the engineering skill set will be in serious trouble during this transition, but no one has mentioned the affect on the astronaut corp, so I thought I'd ask!
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Offline Jorge

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #1 on: 05/05/2008 02:48 AM »
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George CA - 4/5/2008  9:35 PM

We hear of 'Class of 98" etc. when speaking about astronaut assignments, but with the upcoming gap of five years or even more coming, along with less flights and less crews per flight, what impact could this have on both recruiting astronauts and the aspirations of those training now that may not even make a flight by the end of 2010?

It is the goal of the astronaut office to assign every unflown astronaut, including the 2004 class, to a shuttle flight by STS-131, with the possible exception of the ones being "tracked" into ISS expeditions. Unless the shuttle program is cut short by three flights or more, everyone will fly at least once. The intention is to ensure that, regardless of who stays and who goes between 2010 and the first Orion flight, the astronaut office has as much collective experience as possible then. It does mean that a lot of current veterans are not likely to fly again.

As for recruiting, there will be fewer astronaut classes and the classes will be smaller. This trend has been under way for some time. Through the 2000 class, NASA recruited a new class every two years. They skipped 2002 and the next class was 2004. The next class will be in 2009. There may well not be another one until 2014 or so. I suspect they will still have no shortage of qualified applicants.
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Offline edkyle99

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #2 on: 05/05/2008 03:31 AM »
Quote
George CA - 4/5/2008  9:35 PM

We hear of 'Class of 98" etc. when speaking about astronaut assignments, but with the upcoming gap of five years or even more coming, along with less flights and less crews per flight, what impact could this have on both recruiting astronauts and the aspirations of those training now that may not even make a flight by the end of 2010?

We hear a lot about how the engineering skill set will be in serious trouble during this transition, but no one has mentioned the affect on the astronaut corp, so I thought I'd ask!

There really isn't a "gap" for the NASA astronaut office.  NASA astronauts will continue to fly on ISS, via Soyuz, after Shuttle retires, until Orion becomes operational.

A question related to the title of this thread:  I've often read the term "Astronaut Corps", even in NASA biographies.  Sometimes it is capitalized, sometimes not.  Is there actually an "Astronaut Corps", as a titled group, at NASA, or are astronauts part of the "Astronaut Office"?

When I read "Corps", I think "Marine Corps" or "Army Corps of Engineers" or "Peace Corps", etc.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline Jorge

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #3 on: 05/05/2008 04:11 AM »
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edkyle99 - 4/5/2008  10:31 PM

Quote
George CA - 4/5/2008  9:35 PM

We hear of 'Class of 98" etc. when speaking about astronaut assignments, but with the upcoming gap of five years or even more coming, along with less flights and less crews per flight, what impact could this have on both recruiting astronauts and the aspirations of those training now that may not even make a flight by the end of 2010?

We hear a lot about how the engineering skill set will be in serious trouble during this transition, but no one has mentioned the affect on the astronaut corp, so I thought I'd ask!

There really isn't a "gap" for the NASA astronaut office.  NASA astronauts will continue to fly on ISS, via Soyuz, after Shuttle retires, until Orion becomes operational.

A question related to the title of this thread:  I've often read the term "Astronaut Corps", even in NASA biographies.  Sometimes it is capitalized, sometimes not.  Is there actually an "Astronaut Corps", as a titled group, at NASA, or are astronauts part of the "Astronaut Office"?

When I read "Corps", I think "Marine Corps" or "Army Corps of Engineers" or "Peace Corps", etc.

 - Ed Kyle

Astronaut Office is the formal name of the organization that includes the astronauts. Often abbreviated to its JSC mailcode, CB. The organization does include some non-astronauts such as the crew secretaries, schedulers, a handful of support engineers, etc.

Astronaut Corps is the informal name for the subset of the Astronaut Office who are actual astronauts.
JRF

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #4 on: 05/06/2008 05:55 PM »
If Shuttle flights go to STS-133, and the standard crew of 6 holds, there are still 36 positions to be filled before the Shuttle program comes to an end. There are only 8 unflown and un-assigned members of the Astronaut office (Ford, Virts, Wilmore, Bresnick, Dutton, Hernandez, Metcalf-Lindenburger and Satcher). That leaves 28 positions to be filled by veterans (including some currently training for their first mission). This doesn't include Japanese astronauts Furokawa and Yamazaki, who I'm presuming will fly ISS expeditions.

I think it's likely that many of those astronauts who have flown one mission so far (or are scheduled to fly their first mission soon) will get a second flight. Less likely candidates for another Shuttle flight are those who have already flown 2 or more flights (although there is a need for an experienced crewmember or two on any given crew). Charles Hobaugh will likely command a Shuttle flight, most likely STS-128 or 129.

People like Joe Tanner, Andy Thomas, Scott Paraszinski and Rick Linnehan have alluded to the likelihood that their most recent flight was going to be their last (although Thomas thought so after STS-102, and said he was pleasantly surprised when he was asked to fly STS-114). I'd be willing to bet that Steve Robinson will get flight #4, and wouldn't be surprised to see Piers Sellers, Pat Forrester, Rick Mastracchio, Rex Walheim or Mike Massimino (after STS-125) get a third Shuttle flight.

NASA also needs to crew ISS expeditions, and there are at least 22 positions to be filled for the period up to mid-2015 (if you assume at least 2 Americans per expedition~ Expedition 31 will begin in the Spring of 2015 if the 6-month standard is maintained, and Expeditions 21 and beyond are currently un-filled). Being that not every Astronaut will qualify for such an assignment, and that others may not want to make the commitment  to being away from family for the length of time that such an assignment requires, it wouldn't surprise me to see that NASA winds up having a hard time filling a few of those slots.

There could very well be a case of some individuals who are content with calling it a spaceflight career, but who are asked to fly one more time out of sheer necessity (Mike Foale?).

Offline William Barton

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #5 on: 05/06/2008 06:18 PM »
I wonder if any of the current astronauts will hang on long enough to get a flight to the Moon (assuming Constellation goes as planned)? I know at least one of the Apollo-era scientist-astronauts waited a long time for a flight (Karl Henize comes to mind).

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #6 on: 05/06/2008 06:28 PM »
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William Barton - 6/5/2008  1:18 PM

I wonder if any of the current astronauts will hang on long enough to get a flight to the Moon (assuming Constellation goes as planned)? I know at least one of the Apollo-era scientist-astronauts waited a long time for a flight (Karl Henize comes to mind).

Henize and Tony England (who flew together on STS 51-F/Spacelab 2) waited 18 years. Bruce McCandless waited just under 18 years. Don Lind had the longest wait of all, 19 years to the month after his selection. In the unlikely event that Anna Fisher gets another flight, she will have waited at least 25 years between flights! (John Glenn waited over 36 years, but that's an entirely different situation.)

Offline Ben E

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #7 on: 05/06/2008 07:24 PM »
I was also wondering if there are any Story Musgraves or Jerry Rosses or John Youngs in the present corps who may stick it out regardless of the waiting time? I think Foale is probably one of them, but does anyone know of any others?

Ideally, with six missions left to fill (STS-128 thru STS-133), it would be obvious to fly Hobaugh and then each of the Group 17 PLTs (Zamka, Poindexter, the two Johnsons and Ham). However, I wouldn't be surprised if Sturckow gets another command.

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #8 on: 05/06/2008 07:38 PM »
Joe Tanner, in a pre-STS-115 interview, said that while it was most likely his last mission, he was looking forward to helping out with the Constellation Program in other capacities, so who knows? Andy Thomas' wife Shannon Walker is just starting her Astronaut career, so he's not leaving town anytime soon. And they'll probably have to throw a net over Marsha Ivins when she turns 80!

Offline William Barton

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #9 on: 05/06/2008 08:19 PM »
I have to admit, if it were me and I was on the sunny side of 40, I'd try to hang on. If everything goes as planned, it's only another ten years or so. Hope, if the time comes, I'm alive enough to stand by the countdown clock and watch it go. Standing there in '81 was enough of a thrill it made me wish I'd been able to make my way there in '69 (I was 18 and broke--I should've just walked to the highway and put my thumb out).

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #10 on: 05/06/2008 08:56 PM »
Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Megan McArthur, Jim Dutton, Bob Behnken, Chris Cassidy, Tracy Caldwell, and Karen Nyberg are all under 40, and could easily be on active flight status for another 20 years or more if they chose to do so. Garrett Reisman, Mike Fincke, Suni Williams, Shane Kimbrough, Bob Satcher, Terry Virts, Randy Bresnik, Stephanie Wilson, Doug Hurley, Tony Antonelli, Joe Acaba, Stan Love, Drew Feustel, Shannon Walker are all 40-43 years old, and could also be flying for another 20 years.

Offline SpaceUSMC

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #11 on: 05/07/2008 04:39 AM »
Age isint what it used to be. Even in the Al Shepard flew at 47. And these guys and girls are in top physical shape, more so with guys like Cassidy who is a Navy SEAL. I think We will still have at least most of the 2004 class still flying when Orion clears the tower.

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #12 on: 05/07/2008 04:56 AM »
There are only 7 astronauts under age 40! In the 1960s, 40+ was considered "old". Wally Schirra was considered "old" when he commanded Apollo 7 at age 45. There are now rookies older than that. Al Shepard was considered "Methusala" when he commanded Apollo 14. Deke Slayton was off the chart on ASTP at age 51! The standard has changed dramatically since then.

I see no reason why any of today's astronauts cannot expect to be able to fly until at least age 65 if they so chose.

Offline SpaceUSMC

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #13 on: 05/08/2008 03:02 AM »
Story Musgrave was no spring chicken when he made his last flight.
On another note, just goes to show how keeping in top physical shape and such will keep you going for longer in life. I really think that plays the biggest part in carrer longenjevity.

Offline nethegauner

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #14 on: 05/08/2008 12:35 PM »
One note on the "gap": I really do not think that it is the shuttle-to-Orion gap that should be the cause for any concern. It was mentioned before: the ISS will continue (also I fear that the current Soyuz crisis might force NASA to alter its plans) and US astronauts will fly up there after the shuttle is grounded. I am thinking about what happens if Obama is elected and the moon program will considerably move to the right. If there's a gap between ISS and the lunar landings, then that's what I call trouble. Imagine that: the ISS is shut down in 2016 (or later maybe) and there's no lunar landing on the horizon. How can NASA keep its astronauts happy if they have to bridge five to ten years with no flights at all? That would be an interesting question.

Offline clongton

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #15 on: 05/08/2008 06:14 PM »
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nethegauner - 8/5/2008  8:35 AM

Imagine that: the ISS is shut down in 2016
ISS will not shut down in 2016.
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I started my career on the Saturn-V F-1A engine

Offline nethegauner

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Re: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #16 on: 05/13/2008 09:34 AM »
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clongton - 8/5/2008  8:14 PM

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nethegauner - 8/5/2008  8:35 AM

Imagine that: the ISS is shut down in 2016
ISS will not shut down in 2016.
I hope so! But we have insiders here -- well, one actually that I am referring to in particular -- insisting that NASA will not continue to use the ISS after 2016. Do we have any confirmation on this?

Offline Analyst

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #17 on: 05/13/2008 01:33 PM »
This is 8 (in words: eight) years from now. Nobody knows. There are some "plans". Well, I plan to live forever. ;) How likely is this?

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Offline nethegauner

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #18 on: 05/14/2008 09:45 AM »
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Analyst - 13/5/2008  3:33 PM

This is 8 (in words: eight) years from now. Nobody knows. There are some "plans". Well, I plan to live forever. ;) How likely is this?

In spaceflight, E-I-G-H-T years is not M-U-C-H time ...  ;)

Seriously: Of course, there are a couple more elections in the US that should have an impact on this issue (just to name a potential show-stopper), but long-term planning just doesn't end the other day. The multi-year manifest that NASA is publishing still lists all post-2016 activities for the ISS as being under review. Utilization planning would be easier if there would be a long-term plan. Eight years just isn't long-term ...

Offline Analyst

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #19 on: 05/14/2008 06:50 PM »
As you suggested: In politics - and there the money comes from - eight years is eternity.

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Online Eerie

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RE: The Astronaut Corp and the Gap
« Reply #20 on: 05/14/2008 07:14 PM »
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Analyst - 13/5/2008  8:33 AM

This is 8 (in words: eight) years from now. Nobody knows. There are some "plans". Well, I plan to live forever. ;) How likely is this?

Analyst

Considering the latest advantages in biotechnology?

How old are you?  ;)

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