Like many youngsters, Shane Kimbrough always wanted to be an astronaut.
But life took him on a different path – to the U.S. Military Academy, Army Aviation
School and later, Operation Desert Storm. His childhood dream was nothing
more than a memory the day Kimbrough met a man wearing an astronaut fl ight
suit. He was an Army astronaut, and after speaking to him and learning about the
Army Astronaut Program, Kimbrough set his sights on a new career path to the cosmos.
He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 2004. After successfully fi nishing
training two years later, he completed his fi rst space mission as part of STS-126 in
The retired colonel visited Redstone Arsenal last week and talked about his two
missions to space, having returned home from his second trip to the International
Space Station earlier this year. He made stops at NASA’s Payload Operations Integration
Center, which serves as mission control for the science experiments conducted
on the ISS, and Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic
Command – home to the Army Astronaut Program.
“It was great to be back here at SMDC,” Kimbrough said. “It has been four or fi ve
years since my last visit, so it is always great to come back and visit with all of these
wonderful people. They always make me feel I am a part of the family and they still
accept me, even though I am retired.
“It is an amazing feeling to be able to represent the Army in space. The Army has
such a strong legacy in space, and to play a part in that is a real honor.”
Kimbrough spoke about his most recent trip to the ISS, in which he completed
four space walks in addition to the two from his earlier mission. He installed new
batteries for one portion of the ISS, replacing aging nickel-hydrogen batteries with
lithium-ion replacements. He also worked with the POIC on multiple scientifi c experiments,
including stem cell research which will benefi t medical therapies on Earth.
“The relationship between the astronauts and the people working behind me
(here) in the POIC is very important,” Kimbrough said. “They are the ones driving
the daily activities … most of the activities we do work like we plan, but sometimes
it doesn’t happen and that is when you really need the expertise of the people behind
NASA has a long history of utilizing service members as astronauts, with military
pilots serving as the fi rst astronauts. Later in the 1970s, the Defense Department
provided astronauts to NASA for their developing shuttle program, with each
branch of the armed services establishing its own selection board. In 1978, Lt. Col.Robert Stewart became the first Army
astronaut candidate selected by NASA.
He completed two shuttle fl ights as a
mission specialist. Stewart, who was
subsequently promoted to colonel, was
training for a third space fl ight when he
was selected by the Army for promotion
to brigadier general. He was reassigned
from NASA to Redstone Arsenal to assume
the role of deputy commander for
the Strategic Defense Command, today
part of SMDC/ARSTRAT.
“To have Col. Kimbrough share his
experiences about what he did on the International
Space Station was great for
the command,” Col. Joseph McCallion
Jr., chief of staff, SMDC/ARSTRAT,
said. “What really made it signifi cant
for SMDC is that it really brings a
sense of contribution to all our employees.
The visit highlights everything our
Army Space and Missile Defense Command
team does here affects things we
do from on the ground all the way up to
the Army astronauts, who get to travel
“Just having the opportunity for
people in the command to listen to Col.
Kimbrough share his experiences was a
great day for all of us.”
Although SMDC is known for its
work in cutting edge space technology,
it is still exciting when an actual astronaut
comes to town.
“Meeting our Army astronaut was
really cool,” said Lt. Col. Gary Blount,
action offi cer, SMDC/ARSTRAT Commander’s
Action Group. “We were able
to ask actual intelligent questions and
get honest feedback. It was very enlightening
to learn how the astronaut selection
process works and about his time
“The most impressive thing was his
honesty. Being an astronaut is not as
glamorous as you would imagine. He
told how the space capsule was cramped
and crowded and it would beat you up.
To go through that, as well as having
to learn a different language, is all the
Today, the Army Astronaut Program
continues to serve as Army ambassadors
to NASA and the public, while
providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
for active duty and retired Soldiers
like Kimbrough who want to serve their
country on the ground, in the sky – and