An American link to outer space will connect with Pellissippi State Community College on Thursday.
Astronaut Mark T. Vande Hei will speak about how “Space Is Closer Than You Think” at 12:25 p.m. at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.
The free event takes place on April 4th, not “May the 4th” (“be with you” – a perennial favorite “Star Wars” joke), and is open to the public.
Vande Hei recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station. His visit caps Pellissippi State’s two-year Common Academic Experience theme of “Inner Space | Outer Space,” which was inspired by the total solar eclipse in August 2017. The Common Academic Experience has championed campus discussions of issues, both in and out of class, around this theme.
Vande Hei served as Flight Engineer on Expedition 53/54 (Sept. 13, 2017-Feb. 28, 2018). The crew launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. Vande Hei was joined by astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos.
During the mission the crew marked the beginning of the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment, enabling NASA to double the time dedicated to research and achieve a record-setting week of research that surpassed 100 hours. Highlights from this research include investigations into the manufacturing of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, improving the accuracy of an implantable glucoses biosensor and measuring the Sun’s energy input to Earth.
Vande Hei logged 168 days in space on this, his first, mission. He ventured outside the space station on four spacewalks to perform work that included replacing and lubricating the Latching End Effectors on both ends of the Canadarm2. The total duration of these four spacewalks was 26 hours and 42 minutes.
Vande Hei earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., in 1989, and a Master of Science in Applied Physics from Stanford University in 1999.
He was commissioned through ROTC following graduation from Saint John’s. After graduating from the Army’s Engineer Officer Basic Course and Ranger School, he reported to the 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment (Airborne Battalion Combat Team) in Caserma Ederle, Italy. His roles there included combat engineer platoon leader, heavy engineer platoon leader, cold-weather-training officer and support platoon leader.
As a combat engineer platoon leader, he served in Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort. In 1994, he reported to the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Carson, Colo. While there, Vande Hei served in the staff of the 299th and 4th Engineer Battalions and then commanded C Company, 4th Engineer Battalion.
After completing his master’s at Stanford, he served as an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. In 2003, he reported to the Army’s 1st Space Battalion at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. There, he served as an Army space support team leader, then as the battalion’s operations officer.
As an Army space support team leader, Vande Hei deployed to Iraq for 12 months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other military training Vande Hei completed includes the Army Air Assault Course, Parachutist Course, German Winter Operations Course, Engineer Officer Advanced Course, Battalion Maintenance Officers’ Course, Command and General Staff College and the Space Operations Officer Qualification Course.
Vande Hei reported to the Johnson Space Center in July 2006 to serve as a Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) in the Mission Control Center in Houston. He served as an International Space Station CAPCOM for Expeditions 15 to 20 and STS-122, 123, 124, 126 and 127. Vande Hei was selected in June 2009 as one of nine members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. He completed astronaut candidate training in June 2011, after which he continued to serve as a CAPCOM. From June 2012 to May 2013, he served as the Astronaut Office’s Director of Operations in Russia.
His awards include the Legion of Merit; Joint Service Commendation Medal; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Southwest Asia Service Medal; various other campaign and service awards; and NASA Achievement Medal.