Search News Releases
Astronaut Terry Virts Jr. Pilots Space Shuttle Endeavour on His First Space Flight
Daytona Beach, Fla, February 9, 2010
Embry-Riddle Alumnus on ISS Construction Mission
Terry Virts Daytona Beach, Fla., Feb. 9, 2010 -- U.S. Air Force Col. Terry Virts Jr., an Embry-Riddle alumnus, is serving as the pilot of space shuttle Endeavour on his first journey into space. The STS-130 shuttle lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 8 and is scheduled to return to Earth on Sunday, Feb. 21.
Virts and his crewmates, Commander George Zamka and mission specialists Robert Behnken, Kathryn Hire, Nicholas Patrick, and Stephen Robinson, are assigned to a construction mission that will leave the International Space Station (ISS) almost 90% complete.
Three spacewalks will be conducted during the 13-day mission to install a pressurized connecting node that will provide additional room for many of the space station's life support and environmental control systems already on board, including air revitalization, oxygen generation, and water recycling. The astronauts will also attach a cupola to the new node, to be used as a control room for robotics.
One of six current or former astronauts who are Embry-Riddle alumni, Virts earned an M.A.S. in Aeronautics in 1997 from the University’s Worldwide Campus center in Spangdahlem, Germany.
He also holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy and received undergraduate pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., and F-16 training at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Virts has logged over 3,800 flight hours in the F-16 and more than 40 other kinds of aircraft. Along the way he has received numerous military and NASA medals.
Like many astronauts, Virts caught the space bug early. “The first book I ever read, when I was 5 years old, was about the Apollo program and the moon landings, and from that point on I wanted to be an astronaut,” Virts said in a recent interview. “Once I became a fighter pilot, I knew I had a good chance to be an astronaut, and that’s how I got to where I am today.”
Selected as a shuttle pilot astronaut by NASA in 2000, Virts has held many technical positions with the agency since then, including lead astronaut for the T-38 program, test crewmember for the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, Expedition 9 crew support astronaut, and lead astronaut for appearances. He has worked as a CAPCOM for Expeditions 8 through 19 and missions STS-115 through STS-126, communicating with ISS and shuttle crews from mission control at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Most recently he served as the lead CAPCOM for ascent and entry.
“The best thing about being an astronaut is that there’s no such thing as a typical day,” Virts said. “Some days we work in a space shuttle simulator, which is like a big video game that moves and rotates upward to simulate a launch, some days we practice for spacewalks underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, and other days we have flight training in supersonic jets.”
Virts has generously shared his life experiences with others while visiting his alma mater. During one appearance at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus for the annual Women in Aviation Day, he spoke to female middle-school and high-school students about aviation/aerospace education and careers. On that trip he was accompanied by fellow astronaut Nicole Stott, an Embry-Riddle alumna.
Other Embry-Riddle alumni who are currently astronauts are Daniel Burbank, B. Alvin Drew, and Ronald Garan Jr. Alumna Susan Kilrain is a former astronaut.
Stott was recently an STS-128 mission specialist to the ISS, where she served as a flight engineer for three months before returning to Earth in November 2009. Stott and Drew are assigned as STS-133 crewmembers on the final space shuttle mission, scheduled to launch to the ISS in September 2010.
For a complete biography of Terry Virts, visit www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/virts-tw.html.
For the latest information on the STS-130 mission and crew, visit www.nasa.gov/shuttle.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., through the Worldwide Campus at more than 170 campus centers in the United States, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, and through online learning. For more information, visit www.embryriddle.edu.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world's largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 40 baccalaureate, master's and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., and through the Worldwide Campus with more than 150 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.embryriddle.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.