Northeast native tapped as top man in space

STS-135 crew and train­ing team dur­ing CCT-II PRL In­gress/Egress train­ing. Photo Date: May 24, 2011. Loc­a­tion: Build­ing 9NW - CCTII Mockup. Pho­to­graph­er: Robert Markow­itz

Chris Fer­guson, a gradu­ate of St. Martha Gram­mar School and Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School, will serve as com­mand­er of NASA’s fi­nal space shuttle mis­sion.

The space shuttle At­lantis will de­part for the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion on Ju­ly 8. The launch will be from the Kennedy Space Cen­ter in Cape Canaver­al, Fla.

For Fer­guson, who grew up on Amity Road, it’ll be his third mis­sion to the space sta­tion. In 2006, he was the pi­lot on a 12-day At­lantis trip. He re­turned in 2008, this time as com­mand­er of En­deav­our on a 15-day mis­sion.

Join­ing Fer­guson, 49, on this trip will be pi­lot Doug Hur­ley and mis­sion spe­cial­ists Sandy Mag­nus and Rex Wal­heim. A four-per­son crew is low by NASA stand­ards.

The four­some has been train­ing since last Septem­ber. Mag­nus was also part of the ’08 En­deav­our voy­age.

Dur­ing the 12-day mis­sion, Fer­guson and the oth­ers will de­liv­er a multi-pur­pose lo­gist­ics mod­ule filled with sup­plies and spare parts to sus­tain op­er­a­tions at the space sta­tion; test the tools, tech­no­lo­gies and tech­niques needed to ro­bot­ic­ally re­fuel satel­lites in space; and re­turn an am­mo­nia pump that re­cently failed on the sta­tion.

The space shuttle pro­gram star­ted in 1981, and At­lantis made its maid­en voy­age in ’85.

The up­com­ing mis­sion will be the 33rd for At­lantis and 135th and fi­nal one for the shuttle pro­gram.

In the fu­ture, NASA will fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing new space­ships and rock­ets for ex­plor­a­tion of as­ter­oids, the moon and Mars.

At­lantis will re­tire to the Kennedy Space Cen­ter. En­deav­our will be on dis­play at the Cali­for­nia Sci­ence Cen­ter. The third shuttle, Dis­cov­ery, will re­main at the Smith­so­ni­an’s Na­tion­al Air & Space Mu­seum.

En­ter­prise, which was used only for test­ing, will be housed at the In­trep­id Sea, Air & Space Mu­seum in Man­hat­tan.

In­ter­est­ingly, none of the shuttles will have their fi­nal homes at Hou­s­ton’s John­son Space Cen­ter.

Fer­guson, a cap­tain in the U.S. Navy, lives in Hou­s­ton with his wife Sandra and three chil­dren.

After gradu­at­ing from St. Martha (1975) and Ry­an (1979), he earned a de­gree in mech­an­ic­al en­gin­eer­ing from Drexel Uni­versity in 1984. He went on to gradu­ate in 1991 with a mas­ter’s in aero­naut­ic­al en­gin­eer­ing from the Nav­al Post­gradu­ate School. He has been as­signed to the John­son Space Cen­ter since 1998. ••

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