Most experienced US spacewalker retires

March 12, 2012
US astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria waves shortly after the landing of Russian Souyz TMA-9 space capsule in 2007. Lopez-Alegria, who spent more hours walking in space than any other American and also set a record for the longest spaceflight mission has retired to join the private sector, the US space agency said.

A NASA astronaut who spent more hours walking in space than any other American and also set a record for the longest spaceflight mission has retired to join the private sector, the US space agency said Monday.

Michael Lopez-Alegria, 53, flew three space shuttle missions and spent seven months aboard the International Space Station as commander of the Expedition 14 mission in 2006-2007, arriving aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The 215-day mission, the longest single spaceflight by an American, made up a significant chunk of his total 257 days in space.

He logged over 67 hours during 10 spacewalks, more than any other American, ranking him second in the world after record-holder Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev.

He also served as NASA's director of operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, where he led training for American astronauts heading to the Russian space station Mir and the ISS.

"Mike has been a huge asset to the astronaut office during the course of his career," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center.

"His contributions in spacewalking, shuttle, space station and Soyuz operations are notable and very distinguished."

Lopez-Alegria will as of March 19 take over the presidency of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation from Rear Admiral Craig Steidle.

The 40-member federation includes providers of commercial orbital and suborbital spaceflight, spaceports and launch facilities, suppliers, and educational and research institutions.

"I have been impressed with all that the commercial spaceflight industry has accomplished and I look forward to joining the team as it continues to take important strides that are fundamental in maintaining our nation's preeminence in space," he said in a statement.

Lopez-Alegria was born in Madrid, Spain and grew up in California. He obtained advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering from the US Naval Postgraduate School and Harvard University, and speaks Russian, French and Spanish.

With the 30-year space shuttle program over since last year, the US astronaut corps has shrunk in size to about five dozen, down from its peak of 150 in 1999 at the height of the shuttle era and the building of the ISS.

Numerous former astronauts have joined the private sector to help develop the successor to the space shuttle -- a commercially built spacecraft that will once again give the United States access to the ISS perhaps by 2015.

For now, Russia is the sole nation capable of carrying the world's astronauts into space.

Explore further: NASA Announced 14th International Space Station Crew

Related Stories

NASA Announced 14th International Space Station Crew

May 2, 2006

NASA astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Sunita Williams and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin have been named as the 14th crew of the International Space Station. Expedition 14 is scheduled to begin this fall.

Next International Space Station Crew Announced

January 5, 2006

NASA and its international partners have selected astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov as the next crew for the International Space Station, designated as Expedition 13.

Soyuz TMA-9 Arrives At Baikonur

September 5, 2006

The primary and back up crews of the Soyuz TMA-9 mission have arrived at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. At the airport they were met by N.N. Sevastyanov, S.P. Korolev RSC Energia President, General Designer and other ...

Astronaut Ed Lu leaves NASA

August 13, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has announced the resignation of veteran astronaut Ed Lu.

Recommended for you

Ageing star blows off smoky bubble

September 20, 2017

Astronomers have used ALMA to capture a strikingly beautiful view of a delicate bubble of expelled material around the exotic red star U Antliae. These observations will help astronomers to better understand how stars evolve ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.