Astronauts Baker and Fossum retire from NASA
On Saturday, Jan. 7, astronauts Mike Baker and Mike Fossum both retired from NASA to pursue work in the private sector. Both of the spaceflight veterans served in the U.S. military, and both wore numerous hats during their time with the space agency.
Fossum first worked with NASA in 1981, supporting space shuttle flight operations as part of a U.S. Air Force detail at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. In 1992, he left active duty to work directly for the agency, and, in January 1993, NASA hired him as a systems engineer. Five years later, in 1998, he was chosen to be an astronaut.
Fossum first flew to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006, as a member of STS-121. Two years later, in 2008, he flew aboard Discovery again, this time as a member of the crew of STS-124. During these two flights, he performed six extra-vehicular activities.
In 2011, Fossum returned to the space station again, this time on board a Soyuz spacecraft for Expedition 28/29, during which he performed his seventh, and final, spacewalk. When all was said and done, Fossum had accumulated a total of more than 48 hours working outside the ISS. He spent more than 194 days in space during his career.
“Mike Fossum has been a personal friend for over two decades,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center via a release issued by the space agency. “His outstanding service to our great nation and NASA has prepared him well for whatever challenges lie ahead. I wish him and his wonderful family all the best.”
Baker served with the U.S. Navy as a pilot, and then as a pilot instructor, before NASA selected him to be an astronaut in 1985. After the loss of Shuttle Challenger on STS-51L in 1986, he was a member of the team that worked to improve space shuttle landing and deceleration systems.
He served as a pilot for his first two flights, STS-43 on Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1991 and STS-52 on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1992. He then commanded STS-68 in 1994, which brought the Space Radar Laboratory aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Baker also commanded STS-81 in 1997, which used Atlantis to bring supplies, experiments, and astronauts to Russia’s Space Station Mir. Baker spent some 965 hours, or a little more than 40 days, in space over those four missions.
Before his last mission, Baker traveled to Russia and Kazakhstan to attend the launch of the fifth module for the Mir space station, Spektr.
Afterward, Baker served as the assistant director of Johnson Space Center’s Human Spaceflight Programs, Russia (until 2001). He went on to become the International Space Station program manager for international and crew operations, coordinating NASA participation in Russian Soyuz flights. Baker has attended every Soyuz launch since 1998.
“It’s hard to imagine NASA operations in Russia and Kazakhstan without Mike Baker,” Kelly said. “He has been a part of our work there since the International Space Station came into being. He will be missed, but we wish him well in his next endeavor.”
Since the close of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011, many of NASA’s more experienced astronauts have departed the space agency for an array of positions in the private sector and elsewhere.
Rae Botsford End is a freelance writer and editor whose primary work currently is writing technical white papers, contributing to SFI, and working on a speculative fiction novel that she hopes to have published soon. Rae wanted an opportunity to report on the various space-related events in and around Florida's Space Coast and approached SFI's founder about the possibility. Rae now covers an array of subjects for our growing website.