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UA grad set to continue Alabama’s “space tradition” aboard SpaceX capsule


University of Alabama graduate, and NASA astronaut, Bob Hines is set to make his rookie spaceflight as a crew member aboard the fourth manned launch of the SpaceX “Crew Dragon” vehicle. Blastoff is currently scheduled for Tuesday, following a weather delay. The commercial capsule is scheduled to dock on autopilot to the International Space Station. Hines and his crewmates will spend six months aboard the outpost, conducting scientific experiments. He earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Alabama in 2010.

He’s the second UA graduate to go to space.

Veteran NASA astronaut, and UA grad, James Kelley flew twice aboard the Space Shuttle. His first mission was as pilot of Discovery in 2001, which delivered cargo to the space station. Kelley flew again aboard Discovery on the first Shuttle mission after the tragic loss of Columbia in 2003, which broke part and burned up during re-entry, killing all seven astronauts aboard. Kelley’s flight was the first test of extra safety procedures to ensure safe Shuttle missions until the completion of the International Space Station. He earned a master’s in aerospace engineering from UA in 1996, the same year he was selected as an astronaut.

Alabama is also the home state of a number of astronauts. Birmingham native Henry Hartsfield flew on the fourth test flight of Columbia, and later commanded the maiden flight of Discovery. Jim Voss of Opelika was on the second crew of the International Space Station. Kay Hire of Mobile flew twice on the Shuttle. Kathryn Thornton of Montgomery helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope, and Mae Jemison of Decatur was the first African American woman to go to orbit. Astronaut Jan Davis was born in Cocoa Beach, Florida, but considers Huntsville her hometown. She flew with Jemison on NASA’s shuttle mission called Spacelab-J.

Finally Clifton Williams of Mobile was scheduled to walk on the moon during Apollo 12 in 1969, but was killed in a NASA training jet accident.

Editor's note: NASA adjusted the SpaceX capsule liftoff to early Wednesday to accommodate the return of the previous space station crew.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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