Astronaut Tom Marshburn retires from NASA after 3 space missions
NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn brings his 337 days of spaceflight experience to a private company.
Marshburn flew to the international space station (ISS) three times, in 2009, 2012-2013 and 2021-2022. He traveled to and from the ISS each time on a different vehicle, making orbital trips aboard NASA. spaceshipa Russian Soyuz and a SpaceX Crew Dragon.
The former flight surgeon announced his retirement from NASA on Thursday (December 1). Marshburn moves to Sierra Space; he will serve as the chief medical officer for its human spaceflight center and astronaut training academy as the company pursues the design of a NASA-funded space station.
Related: International Space Station: A Photographic Tour
Sierra Space is working to position its Dream Catcher spacecraft for NASA contract cargo missions to the ISS, as well as military cargo flights. The spacecraft will also be used for private astronaut flights in the coming years, Sierra Space said, including to a private space station called orbital reef. (Orbital Reef is one of several private resorts being considered, collectively supported by $415 million in NASA funding announced in December 2021. NASA hopes that one or more of these private stations will eventually replace the ISS, which the agency plans to use until at least 2030.)
“I look forward to creating and developing the rules, regulations and training that will ensure Sierra Space properly equips the future astronaut corps with the tools to succeed,” Marshburn said in a statement.
Marshburn worked for NASA for 28 years, serving for a decade as a flight surgeon and 18 years as an astronaut. His spaceflight medical experience includes supporting NASA personnel working at the Russian Training Center in Star City outside of Moscow, co-chairing medical operations for Space Shuttle visits to Russia’s Mir space station, and direction of medical operations for the ISS.
His departure for the private sector is increasingly typical for NASA astronauts these days, with recent examples also including Peggy Whitson and Michael López-Alegría for Axiom space. Houston-based Axiom operates private missions to the ISS and is working to build its own NASA-backed space station over the next decade.
Related: NASA looks to private outposts to build on International Space Station legacy
Some of Marshburn’s other career highlights include the emergency repair of a leaking ISS ammonia pump during a 2013 spacewalk, days before landing with a Soyuz crew. The Expedition 34/35 crew, which included Canadians Chris Hadfield and Marshburn, was also one of the most scientifically productive of that time, according to Canadian Space Agency officials speaking to Space.com at the time.
Marshburn’s other assignments included the STS-127 shuttle flight in 2009, the main task of which was to complete the construction of the Japanese Kibo module on the ISS, and SpaceX Crew-3 from November 2021 to May 2022. On Crew-3, Marshburn’s final mission, he piloted the Crew Dragon and worked with a crew that performed 250 experiments aboard the ISS, according to NASA statistics (opens in a new tab).
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Where Facebook (opens in a new tab).