by Jeff Cunningham
This is the first in a series we’ll be doing to introduce you to your new Commercial Crew astronauts. Of these four of NASA’s best and brightest, two of them will be the lucky pair who get to pilot the maiden flight of the crewed Dragon (which we’re hoping that you’ll help us get named Serenity).
Today, meet Doug Hurley, known among his fellow Marine Corps pilots by his radio call sign “Chunky”–which no amount of investigative googling could trace to its origin. You’ll have to ask him where it came from yourself.
Hurley was born October 21, 1966 in New York, which he still considers his home. He enjoys hunting, bicycling and NASCAR. At the age of 22, he not only graduated magna cum laude from Tulane with a bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, he was also a Distinguished Graduate of both their Navy ROTC and their Marines Corp Officer Candidates School. He received his commission from the latter that same year.
After attending Basic at Quantico Infantry Officers and Aviation School in Pensacola, Florida, he graduated from Naval Pilot Training in Texas as a naval aviator in August, 1991. Before long, he relocated to the El Toro Air Station in California, where he first became acquainted with the F/A-18 Hornet, a craft that would play a large role in his career path to the black. He was assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All-Weather), or VMFA(AW)-225, better known as the Vikings. For the next four and a half years, he was deployed on three overseas tours and continued his education in aviation weapons and tactics, including training his fellow pilots.
Like many who aspire to the stars, Hurley sought and was granted admission to the very selective U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland in January, 1997. After graduating that December, he was assigned to the Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron as a test pilot, pioneering advances and upgrades to the very same F/A-18 fighter he’d flown earlier in his career. He went on to become the first Marine to ever pilot the new craft that came out of the program, the Super Hornet.
Hurley’s big moment came while serving as the program’s operations officer in 2000 when NASA gave him the news that his dream had come true: Doug “Chunky” Hurley would join the proud ranks of the astronauts. Now, as we’ve discussed here before, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that once astronauts complete their one to two years of training, they’re not immediately assigned to a flight. It can take several years for them to finally make it into space. In the meantime, they’re assigned to technical support positions on the ground. In Hurley’s case, that entailed serving as one of the Astronaut Support Personnel, or “Cape Crusaders,” for two space shuttle missions, overseeing the shuttle’s “rollout” to the launch pad before missions and her landings afterward, and lent his expertise to the Columbia reconstruction team at Kennedy Space Center. He was even Director of NASA Operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, which is kind of like being in charge of a sort of “NASA embassy” in Star City, Russia.
Finally, in 2009, Hurley got to realize his dream of flying into space as pilot of STS-127 (Endeavour) in 2009. His crew’s mission was to install a sort of “back patio” on the International Space Station, a platform attached to the outside of the station where astronauts can place experiments to be fully exposed to the harsh conditions of outer space.
Two years later, he’d take his ship out for one last ride as pilot of STS-135 (Atlantis)— the last time a space shuttle would ever fly. Hurley and his crew succeeded in completing construction of the International Space Station with the installation of the “Raffaello” Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM).
Over the course of his distinguished career, Doug Hurley has been awarded the Legion of Merit, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, plus several other service awards, and has logged over 5,000 hours in more than 25 different aircraft–impressive even for an astronaut. Now, he stands ready as one of the pool of four Commercial Crew astronauts, with a chance to be the first to pilot the SpaceX crewed Dragon.