Veteran NASA astronaut Dan Burbank leaves NASA
After being tapped by the agency to be an astronaut in 1996 and spending some 188 days on orbit, Dan Burbank has decided it’s time to hang up his spacesuit.
Burbank’s last day with the space agency was Friday, June 29. It marked the close of a career that spanned some 22 years and included three trips to the International Space Station.
His first flight to space was on board space shuttle Atlantis as Mission Specialist 3 on STS-106, which launched from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex B. The 12-day mission readied the space station to support multi-national expeditions. STS-106 saw an estimated three tons worth of cargo ferried to the ISS.
This would not be Burbank’s last voyage to the orbiting laboratory – only his first.
Six year later, and on the same shuttle orbiter, on STS-115, Burbank would assist furthering the construction of the ISS by adding another pair of solar arrays to help power the station. Burbank was instrumental in this as, during an extra-vehicular activity that lasted more than seven hours, he helped affix them to the ISS.
“Dan has been a good friend since we began astronaut candidate training together,” said Pat Forrester, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston via an agency-issued release. “He’s done extraordinary work for the agency and has been a valuable member of the NASA team for more than 20 years. He will be missed and we wish him all the best moving forward.”
Finally, in November of 2011, Burbank flew on his final mission to space aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 Soyuz capsule in November of 2011. The mission lifted off from the Baikonur, Cosmodrone located in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz-FG rocket and marked the start of Burbank’s stint as a flight engineer on the Expedition 29 crew – and as the commander of Expedition 30.
During his last trip to the now 20-year-old space station, he was part of instrumental changes to the ISS. According to a release issued by the agency: …his crew completed 23 major hardware upgrades and six major software upgrades to the command and data handling system, hosted five visiting spacecraft and took part in nearly 200 science experiments before returning to Earth in April 2012.
One of Burbank’s last roles with NASA was as chief of the vehicle integration and test office in the Flight Operations Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Burbank is one of only two astronauts who hail from the U.S. Coast Guard (the other being Bruce Melnick) to go on to become astronauts (Burbank was a captain with the U.S. Coast Guard where he logged 4,000 flight hours).
During his time with the Coast Guard, Burbank was a part of more than 2,000 flights, over 300 of these were search and rescue missions. Most of the flights that he conducted were in helicopters.
Video courtesy of NASA Johnson
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.