Spaceflight pioneer astronaut Doug Hurley retires from NASA after 21 years

After a historic career, astronaut Doug Hurley retired from NASA Friday, capping a 21-year career returning human spaceflight from Florida last year when he launched with SpaceX to the International Space Station.

A former U.S. Marine Colonel, Hurley has spent 93 days in space during his time with NASA, most recently when he and NASA astronaut Bob Behnken launched from the Kennedy Space Center on SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The May 30, 2020 launch marked the first human spaceflight from American soil in nearly a decade and SpaceX became the first commercial company to fly humans to the ISS.

Hurley was part of another historic milestone in human spaceflight, the final space shuttle mission in 2011. Hurley was the pilot for two shuttle missions, STS-127 with shuttle Endeavour and the 135th and final space shuttle mission on Atlantis, STS-135.

In a statement, Hurley detailed his storied career for NASA, including experiencing the loss of his friends aboard space shuttle Columbia and meeting his wife at the agency.

“For 21 years, I’ve had the incredible honor of participating in the American space program and working alongside the extremely dedicated people of NASA. To have had a place in the assembly of the International Space Station, and the Space Shuttle Program including flying on its final mission, STS-135, has been a tremendous privilege,” Hurley said. “To then have had the opportunity to be at the forefront of the Commercial Crew Program, specifically working with SpaceX, on to commanding the first flight of Crew Dragon, and finally, as a perfect end to my flying career, serving onboard the space station as a resident crew member. On a personal level, there were many significant life moments, too, at NASA that have had their forever impact on me. The loss of my colleagues on space shuttle Columbia. And meeting my wife here and starting our family. It is truly humbling when reflecting back on it all.”

NASA announced Hurley’s retirement Friday, which marked his last day with the astronaut office.

“Doug Hurley is a national hero,” NASA astronaut office chief Reid Weisman said in a statement. “He is a pioneer in human spaceflight who inspires the next generation. Doug made significant impacts everywhere he served at NASA. Our very best wishes for him, his family, and his future pursuits. We thank Doug for his service.”

Hurley is married to retired astronaut Karen Nyberg. The couple met when they were part of the 2000 astronaut class at NASA. They have a son together who was there to see when his father launched from Kennedy Space Center last summer.

Hurley and Behnken became known as the “space dads” or “SpaceX dads” because they both have young sons around the same age. The boys even selected the zero-gravity indicator in the form of a sparkly dinosaur plush toy named Tremor.

“Doug brought experience and leadership vital to our continued success in human spaceflight. He shared his critical learning from his missions during many years in human spaceflight to a new team,” Kathy Lueders, the head of NASA human spaceflight, said. “Many of us know and love him as one of the dads on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight – it’s personal to fly a member of our NASA family, and important for the team working these missions always to keep in mind he and his family is in our hands.”


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