NASA plans to launch American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station next year — and a Cal Poly alumnus has been selected to pilot one of the missions.
Victor Glover, who graduated from Cal Poly in 1999 with a degree in engineering, is one of nine astronauts who will crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
The 42-year-old Glover will be among the first Americans to launch into orbit from U.S. soil since NASA’s space shuttle program shut down in 2011.
“This is the stuff of dreams,” Glover said Friday during an event at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “This is a test pilot’s dream.”
When Glover left San Luis Obispo nearly 20 years ago, he joined the U.S. Navy and began his career as a Naval Aviator and test pilot. He earned three master’s degrees while serving in the Navy.
The Pasadena native accumulated nearly 3,000 hours of flying time in more than 40 aircraft, with 400 carrier landings and 24 combat missions.
Glover, a father of four, was serving as a legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate when he joined NASA in 2013 — beating out a field of more than 6,100 applicants.
Glover is the fourth Cal Poly graduate to become an astronaut.
The others are four-time space shuttle commander Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson, who earned an aerospace engineering degree in 1969; and Greg Chamitoff and Frederick “Rick” Sturckow, who both graduated with engineering-related degrees in 1984, according to Cal Poly.
“This is a big deal for our country, and we want Americans to know that we are back,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday. “We’re flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”
Glover will partner with NASA veteran Mike Hopkins, 49, who spent 166 days aboard the space station in 2014, during their mission aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.
The Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida in late 2019.
NASA says commercial transportation to and from the space stations will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory.
“The station is critical for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight,” a NASA news release said, “and necessary for a sustainable presence on the Moon and missions deeper into the solar system, including Mars.”