by Jeff Cunningham
Ni hao, fellow travellers! Today we introduce Colonel Eric Boe, the third of four astronauts selected to be among the first to pilot the first of SpaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft, which Browncoats and sci-fi fans everywhere are campaigning to have named after Serenity.
Born in Miami, Florda, Eric Boe considers himself a native of Atlanta, where he grew up and attended high school. After graduating, he began what would become a long, distinguished- and still continuing- service in the Civil Air Patrol, the civilian volunteer auxiliary of the Air Force that performs emergency airlifts, search-and-rescue, disaster relief, as well as supporting the American Red Cross. While still a cadet, Boe was awarded the General Carl A. Spaatz Award, the highest award that the service gives to cadets.
He went on to earn degree in Astronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1987, and a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech ten years later. Following his undergraduate studies, though, Boe was commissioned from the Air Force Academy and Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard Air Force Base. After a stint as an F-4 Phantom II pilot in the Philippines, he actually served as a flight instructor in more than one squadron, teaching the finer points of flying the T-38– which those of you who read and keep us with us often may recognize as the airplane that astronauts themselves train in.
At Eglin AFB in Florida, Boe made Flight Commander in an F-15C, then went on to fly 55 combat missions in Iraq following the first Gulf War. Later on, in 1997, he put in for the same transfer that many other astronaut hopefuls do, and was accepted to the USAF Test Pilot School in California. After graduating, he found himself back at Eglin as Director-of-Test, where he test-flew F-15 models and helicopters and even tested air-to-air missiles (which we can only imagine takes a Wash-like level of calm).
It was here that Boe was accepted by NASA in 2000. Like the other potential crew of the potential Serenity that we’ve told you about, he had to wait– eight years of training and service in Advanced Vehicles and Station Operations– before he was able to score his first mission aboard STS-126 as Endeavour’s pilot. He would go on to pilot one more shuttle flight, on Discovery’s final mission.
Since 2012, Eric has served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office, essentially making him the second-highest ranking astronaut in NASA. In July of last year, he was tapped to be part of the new group of astronauts flying next-generation craft like Dragon (no doubt helped by his experience in the Advanced Vehicles department). Boe has logged over 4,000 hours in almost 50 different aircraft, and has too many medals from his service in both the Civil Air Patrol and the Air Force to list here. Seriously, if you haven’t picked up on the theme already, astronauts kind of tend to be overachievers, and they selected the most overachieving out of the whole lot for the Dragon Four!
(You can track Eric Boe’s progress as he prepares to go back to the black as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Project by following him on Twitter at @Astro_Boe.)