NASA astronaut and Stanford alumnus Mark Vande Hei

Mark Vande Hei
Mark Vande Hei

On Sept. 12, NASA astronaut and Stanford alumnus MARK VANDE HEI, MS ’99, will lift off on his first space flight. Part of the Expedition 53-54, along with astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, Vande Hei will launch on the Russian Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), which has been continuously occupied since Nov. 2, 2000.

Vande Hei is from Falls Church, Virginia. He completed his bachelor’s degree in physics from Saint John’s University and was then commissioned in the U.S. Army through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and served as a combat engineer. In 1999, Vande Hei earned a master’s degree in applied physics from Stanford and went on to work as an assistant professor of physics at the U.S. Military Academy. Prior to being selected as an astronaut candidate, Vande Hei worked as a capsule communicator in NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center in Houston for Expeditions 15 through 30 and five space shuttle missions.

Once at the ISS, Vande Hei, Acaba and Misurkin will join Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, who arrived at the ISS in July as members of Expedition 52. The crew will continue several hundred experiments currently underway on the orbiting laboratory. Over the years, experiments conducted aboard the ISS have helped us understand how to prevent bone loss through diet and exercise, informed microbial vaccine development and enhanced our ability to monitor water quality, weather and natural disasters from space.

One of the current experiments, called Functional Immune, involves sampling the blood and saliva of crew members to monitor how their immune systems change during space flight. This research could offer insights into the health effects of long-duration space travel, including future missions to Mars, asteroids or other destinations in deep space.

An interview with Vande Hei from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website at 4 a.m. PDT on Sept. 1. At 4:30 a.m. PDT, NASA TV will also run a video feed of highlights from the astronauts’ training mission and Joe Acaba’s interview will follow at 6 a.m. PDT.