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NASA Astronaut Patrick G. Forrester Retires After 31 Years of Service




NASA astronaut Patrick G. Forrester, renowned for his 31-year career and three spaceflights, officially retired on June 29. Forrester, who served as the chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office and advisor to the associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, leaves behind a legacy of significant contributions to human space exploration.

Early Career and Spaceflights

Forrester joined NASA in 1993 as an aerospace engineer at Johnson Space Center in Houston and became an astronaut in 1996. His early career focused on assembling the International Space Station (ISS), spending a total of 40 days in space and completing four spacewalks totaling 25 hours and 30 minutes.

  • First Spaceflight: In August 2001, Forrester launched aboard space shuttle Discovery for mission STS-105. He served as the prime robotics operator, installing the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module.
  • Second Spaceflight: In June 2007, he flew on STS-117 aboard space shuttle Atlantis, delivering the second starboard truss and third set of solar arrays to the ISS.
  • Final Spaceflight: In August 2009, Forrester’s final mission, STS-128 aboard Discovery, saw him again install Leonardo and assist in transferring 18,000 pounds of supplies to the ISS.

Leadership and Contributions

Forrester supported the astronaut corps in various leadership roles, including technical assistant to the director of Flight Crew Operations, crew representative of robotics development, and spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM). In 2017, he became the chief of the Astronaut Office, overseeing the initial flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and contributing to the Artemis campaign’s architecture. He stepped down in 2020, passing the role to NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

Norm Knight, director of flight operations at NASA Johnson, praised Forrester’s leadership during critical periods, emphasizing his courage and character. Forrester’s recent role involved advising the Space Operations Mission Directorate and contributing to the Cross-Directorate Technical Integration Office.

Education and Military Service

Forrester, a native of El Paso, Texas, holds a B.S. in applied sciences and engineering from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and an M.S. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. He retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel in 2005, having logged over 5,300 flight hours in more than 50 aircraft as an aviator and test pilot.

Legacy and Future

Forrester expressed gratitude for his time at NASA, stating, “It has been an honor to serve our nation as a member of the NASA family. Many of the stories I will tell for the rest of my life will be related to my experiences here.” He looks forward to the future achievements of his colleagues, including lunar missions.

Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for space operations, highlighted Forrester’s enduring influence: “Pat is an incredible leader who has provided invaluable service to NASA’s astronaut corps and human spaceflight during his career. His influence will be felt long after his departure as we continue to work every day in low Earth orbit and prepare for the future near Earth, at the Moon, Mars, and into the solar system.”

Forrester’s full biography is available at: NASA Biography.

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