HOUSTON – Two veteran astronauts with 50 years of experience in NASA have retired at the beginning start of 2017.
Mike Baker and Mike Fossum hung their NASA space uniforms up Saturday to join a private company.
Fossum began his journey in NASA in 1981 as part of the U.S. Air Force detail to support the space shuttle's flight procedures. He returned as a system engineer and astronaut to support the International Space Station and Mission Operations Directorate in 1993.
Five years later, Fossum was selected as an astronaut for NASA. He served 18 years in the astronaut corps. He performed seven spacewalks in space for more than two days outside the space station and spent about 2,000 hours of flight time in 35 different aircraft.
“Mike Fossum has been a personal friend for over two decades,” said Brian Kelly, director of flight operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “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.”
Fossum was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University and master’s from the University of Houston – Clear Lake.
Baker spent his first 10 years as a U.S. Navy pilot, instructor at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot and Empire test Pilot Schools. He was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1985. Baker improved the space shuttle fleet’s landing safety margins after the Challenger accident in 1986.
He had his first flight in 1991, when he piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-43 and helped put a tracking satellite device into orbit. In all, Baker has spent 965 hours in space and 5,400 hours
Before his last mission, he made many trips to Russia and Kazakhstan. Baker attended every Soyuz launch since 1998 after being named as the assistant director of Johnson Space Center for Human Spaceflight programs.
“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.”
Baker was born in Memphis, Tennesse, but earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from University of Texas.