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    Astronaut Morgan visits HRC, shares Army story

    Astronaut Morgan visits HRC, shares Army story

    Photo By Maria McClure | FORT KNOX, Ky. – Col. (Dr.) Andrew “Drew” Morgan, U.S. Army astronaut, presents...... read more read more



    Story by Maria McClure 

    U.S. Army Human Resources Command

    FORT KNOX, Ky. – Col. (Dr.) Andrew “Drew” Morgan, United States Army astronaut, is quick to say he is just an ordinary person who has had extraordinary opportunities because of his service to the nation.

    “In the Army you literally can do anything – you can be all you can be,” Morgan said. “You can be an aviator, or an artist, or you can be a chemist or a cook. You can do it all. There are many cool jobs in the Army – I have a cool job in the Army, but in the Army we all have cool jobs and being an astronaut is just one of them.”

    Because his Army career path is not a typical one the support of the Soldiers and civilians at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command is an integral part of his continued success in the Army.

    “For most Soldiers out there, this is a big mysterious box where actions go, but my experience throughout my career is that HRC looks out for Soldiers. They want to do the best for the most and I am a living example of that,” Morgan said during a recent visit here to HRC where he personally thanked the Soldiers and civilians for the support they provide to service members across the force.

    “Thank you for taking care of Soldiers everywhere regardless of what their unique circumstances are, and astronauts have unique circumstances,” he said. “HRC has always been extraordinarily accommodating in finding ways to take care of astronauts as Soldiers.”

    Lt. Col. Lauri M. Zike, HRC command surgeon, and Ken Mattingly, information technology project manager, Enterprise Modernization Directorate, HRC, were among the 100 personnel who attended a question-and-answer session during which Morgan shared his unique Army story.

    “I think [the visit] was a really cool thing to have happen here at HRC,” Zike said. “As a physician and as an aerospace medicine resident it was super special to meet someone who is a physician, who is in the Army, who has gone up in space and done this travel.”

    Mattingly said his son, Connor, is enthralled with space and space exploration and was looking forward to sharing Morgan’s story with him.

    “I was very appreciative that he was able to come out with his busy schedule and address the Soldiers and civilians here and answer their questions,” he said. “It gave everyone a sense that it does not matter where you are in your career, you have a path and a chance of becoming an astronaut or getting into one of the space programs.”

    Soldier first

    Morgan’s Army career began some 30 years ago at the U.S. Military Academy West Point, New York.

    “All I ever wanted to be when I was growing up was to be in the military and be a Soldier,” he said. “And because of a lot of incredible opportunities I became a medical doctor, became an emergency physician and served about eight years in couple different types of special operations units. I had a dream job – I loved what I was doing.”

    While serving in elite special operations units, Morgan was deployed in direct support of combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

    Although Morgan was living his dream, in the back of his mind there was an inkling for something more, and so he applied for admission to NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Program. The Army Astronaut Program allows Soldiers who are accepted into the NASA program to continue serving on active duty.

    “The common thread in all the things that I have done in my career is being part of very high-functioning, really good teams that have good camaraderie and belonging and perform high-risk operations,” he said while referring to the book “Tribe,” by Sebastian Junger, with the key premise of the importance of belonging and being part of something bigger than yourself. “To me it wasn’t actually about flying in space, it was being part of this special thing and these special people.”

    Every four years, or so, NASA accepts applications for a new class of astronauts. The process is long and only a few are accepted. In 2013, after 18 months, Morgan was selected for NASA’s 21st group of astronauts – a cohort of eight chosen from more than 6,000 applicants.

    “Through a lot of happy accidents and the fact that I was a little different than the typical astronaut applicant allowed me to be selected with these great Americans – four men and four women. It was the first time that had ever happened in the history of NASA,” Morgan said. “Six of the eight of us were military, but only four of us were aviators the others were engineers, PhDs and I was the lone medical doctor. And as of just two weeks ago, everyone has flown their first space flight.”

    Astronaut candidate training is two years and includes learning Russian, scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalk and spacesuit operations, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training, earth science training, water and wilderness survival training.

    Four years after completing candidate training, Morgan launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, aboard the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft to the International Space Station, or ISS, for a nine-month mission July 20, 2019 – the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. His crewmates included Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency.

    “When I went to space, I represented a lot of different things – things that had touched my life along the way and I wanted to represent those well,” Morgan said. “At the top of that list is my military service in the Army as a Soldier. I am very proud of the fact that I was a Soldier- astronaut up there representing the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Being a Soldier and representing that in space was the proudest thing.”

    Expedition 60, 61 and 62

    While aboard the ISS, Morgan served as the flight engineer and the U.S. segment lead. He and his crewmates conducted hundreds of experiments including the first examination in space of cells from Parkinson’s patients in zero gravity to better understand neurodegenerative diseases, according to a NASA June 18, 2019, press release.

    “It was incredible,” he said. “We were up there during a very operationally dense time aboard the ISS and as a crew we did 10 spacewalks, which is a really high number for the period of time that we were up there.”

    Of the 10 spacewalks, Morgan conducted seven for a total of 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. During four of those spacewalks, he worked on repairs to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a one-of-a-kind particle detector that searches for evidence of dark matter in the universe. He also supported NASA’s first all-female spacewalk taken by astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir.

    “We had a highly successful mission.” Morgan said.

    Additionally, he conducted the first Army enlistment from space by administering the oath of enlistment to 800 new recruits, who were in 157 different locations on Earth.

    During his 115.3-million-mile journey, Morgan completed 4,352 orbits around the Earth.

    Despite current tensions, the collaborative work aboard the ISS continues, he said.

    “The Russians have been our partners in space for over 20 years now and current events have not affected day-to-day operations on the ISS,” Morgan said.

    NASA has been cooperating with its Russian counterparts since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in July 1975 during which one American and one Russian spacecraft docked in orbit. The space crews worked together on science experiments and shared a meal before returning to Earth.

    “Some of my fondest memories of living on the ISS were the times when we were all together listening to music and sharing space food from our respective countries,” Morgan said. “It was sort of a surreal experience. It was unique because you are experiencing international harmony in a way that you don’t see very often these days.”

    Army opportunities

    The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, or USASMDC, develops and provides current and future global space, missile defense and high-altitude capabilities to the Army, joint force, as well as our allies and partners to enable multi-domain combat effects, enhance deterrence, assurance, and detection of strategic attacks while protecting the nation, according to the command’s webpage at

    The Army Astronaut Program falls under the USASMDC NASA Detachment at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, and has three active-duty astronauts that include Morgan, detachment commander; Col. Anne McClain, incoming detachment commander; and Lt. Col. (Dr.) Frank Rubio, currently aboard the ISS for a year-long mission. There is also a recently accessed Reserve component officer, Maj. Kathleen H. Rubins who joined the U.S. Army Reserve after serving as a NASA astronaut for 13 years and flying in space on two separate missions.

    Becoming a NASA astronaut is not the only way to interact with space as a Soldier. Morgan encourages any Soldier interested in space operations to also consider an Army career in support of the Army’s space mission and career managers at HRC can assist. The Army offers many opportunities including careers in Functional Area 40 – space operations officer.

    “If you’re an officer focus on being great at the basics of being a good officer, good teammate, tenacity, doctrinally sound yet not doctrinally bound, search for a solution and never quit,” said Maj. A. Nicholas Parsai, space operations career manager, HRC. “If you can do this, we add space knowledge to your repertoire and now you are integrating on-orbit capabilities into the targeting and operations process.”

    HRC career managers look at what space-associated training and assignments an officer has executed for selection into the career field, Parsai said.

    “On average there are three applicants for every available position, so the more space training you have the better your chances,” he said.

    An enlisted Soldier can attend the Army Space Basic Cadre Course, and if serving in a 3Y coded position for one year or more, is eligible to get the basic space badge, Parsai said. Some of the most common military occupational specialties to get this badge are Soldiers in satellite communication, military intelligence and air defense artillery.

    “There have also been wheeled vehicle mechanics who served in space billets due to their professional competence and briefing skills,” he said. “Overall, the best bet for an enlisted member to get a space badge is to first request assignment to the Space Brigade. If that is not possible then they could also request assignment to the multi-domain task forces.”

    Morgan emphasized Soldiers do not need to be in the Functional Area 40 space operations career field to apply to become a NASA astronaut. NASA requires an advanced, master’s level degree in science, engineering or math. There are no rank requirements, you just need to be a U.S. citizen.

    “You need to aspire to be the best you in what you do. You do not have to be the best, but you need to aspire to be the best,” he said. “And do all the things that are the markers for distinction in your career field.”
    After seven years, Morgan will relinquish command of the USASMDC NASA Detachment to McClain as the Army has selected him for his next mission as a brigade-level commander.

    “Col. Andrew Morgan is an approachable and humble leader,” Parsai said. “My favorite quote from his visit was ‘there’s no astronaut special sauce, anyone can do it.’ I am very glad he decided to return to the force to execute a command.”

    Follow Morgan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @AstroDrewMorgan. You can also follow the International Space Station through the GoISSWatch app available on Apple and Android devices. Learn more about NASA missions at and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command at



    Date Taken: 03.31.2023
    Date Posted: 03.31.2023 12:21
    Story ID: 441681
    Location: FORT KNOX, KY, US 

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