NASA astronaut Michael Fossum visits MMA

Fossum is accompanied by MMA alumnus Dick Smith

NASA astronaut Michael Fossum visited the Marine Military Academy campus the morning of Feb. 10. Fossum was accompanied by NASA research pilot and MMA alumnus Dick Smith, Class of 1988.

Astronaut Michael Fossum and NASA research pilot Dick Smith
Left to right: NASA astronaut Michael Fossum and NASA research pilot Dick Smith.

The Rio Grande Valley was once home to Fossum and Smith when they were teenagers. Fossum graduated from McAllen High School in 1976, and Smith graduated from MMA in 1988. When it was time for an “out and back” flight training mission on Feb. 10, these men decided to fly out of NASA in Houston to the Harlingen airport, which neighbors the MMA campus.

Both Fossum and Smith plan to return to MMA to speak to the cadets about their career paths and the importance of pursuing their goals.

After graduating from Mac High, Fossum received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University in 1980. He was then commissioned to the U.S. Air Force and earned a master’s degree in systems engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. Fossum would later earn another master’s degree in physical science from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

After serving for 12.5 years, Fossum resigned from active duty in 1992 with the rank of colonel. He then went to work for NASA as a systems engineer but became a flight test engineer just four years later. Fossum was selected as an astronaut in June 1998.

Over the past 16 years, Fossum has been on three space missions, twice as a mission specialist and once as International Space Station commander. He is presently the assistant director for ISS in Flight Crew Operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Smith attended the United States Naval Academy and received a bachelor’s degree in general science in 1992. He would later earn a master’s degree in astronautical engineering from the University of Southern California.

After he earned his bachelor’s degree, Smith was commissioned to the U.S. Marine Corps. He became an EA-6B Prowler pilot and did two “no fly zone” tours over Iraq and two deployments within Iraq. After serving for 21 years, Smith retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He then began his second career as a research pilot for NASA.