Army officer to return to Earth after 272-day mission in space

Drew Morgan floating in space attached to the ISS
Story by Ronald Bailey
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

U.S. Army Col. Andrew “Drew” Morgan will depart from the International Space Station to return to earth aboard a Soyuz “Union” MS-15 spacecraft April 17, at 1:17 a.m. EDT, following his 272-day mission as a part of Expeditions 60, 61 and 62.

Drew Morgan giving a thumbs up aboard the ISS“Twenty-five years ago I made the decision to serve my country as a military officer. I view my nine-month mission to the space station as a continuation of that service. It’s been a real honor for me to represent the U.S. military on board the ISS during some of the most intense operations in its history.” Morgan said.

Morgan’s mission, which began July 20, 2019, coincided with the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing. Morgan also shares the distinction of landing on earth exactly 50 years to the day of the tense but triumphant Apollo 13 landing.

“50 years ago Apollo 13 was in crisis in space, and through the ingenuity and dedication of flight controllers in mission control, the crew returned safely to Earth,” Morgan said. “Now the crisis is on Earth. Once again, the ingenuity and dedication of flight controllers in mission control centers around the world keep the ISS flying and will bring my crew home safely.”

Drew Morgan alongside Jessica Meir aboard the ISS

Morgan, along with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Expedition 62 Commander Oleg Skripochka of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, will begin his journey back to Earth Thursday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m. EDT with the closure of Soyuz MS-15’s hatch, followed by undocking which is currently schedule for 9:53 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft is expected to begin its deorbit burn at 12:22 a.m. EDT, landing at 1:17 a.m. EDT.

Upon landing, the crew will return by Russian helicopters to the recovery staging city in Baikonur, Kazakhstan where astronauts Morgan and Meir will board a NASA aircraft from the adjacent city of Kyzlorda for a flight back to Houston, Texas.

Drew Morgan in a space suitDuring his mission, Morgan will have made 4,352 Earth orbits covering a distance of some 115-million miles and hold the record for the most consecutive days in space for a U.S. Army astronaut. During his nine months in space he contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

During his mission, Morgan spent 45 hours and 48 minutes conducting seven spacewalks, the highest number of spacewalks completed by an American astronaut during a single flight, according to NASA statistics. Of the seven, four were to conduct complicated repairs of the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer with European Space Agency astronaut Col. Luca Parmitano, allowing scientists to continue studying the universe for evidence of “dark matter.”

Among the numerous live public events Morgan participated in ranging from media interviews to talks with educational institutions and civic organizations, he also holds the unique distinction of being the first officer to deliver a mass oath of enlistment from space. On Feb, 26, Morgan swore-in more than 1,000 new service members during a live broadcast.

Drew Morgan broadcasting to USU from the ISS

Morgan was serving as a commissioned Army medical corps officer with the U.S. Special Operations Command when he was selected as an astronaut candidate in June 2013, completing the training in July 2015. 

Drew Morgan aboard the ISS with a view of Earth in the backgroundMorgan, the first Army physician in space, is a board-certified Army emergency physician with a sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine and is the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army Astronaut Detachment located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He has served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Morgan's hometown is New Castle, Pennsylvania. He earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, in 1998, and received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, in 2002.

“I am a Soldier, a military physician, and a NASA astronaut, in that order. I'm a Soldier first, and the military trained me to be a leader of character, dedicated to taking care of people." Morgan said. "Every quality that's made me a successful astronaut is a product of my military training: from my academic degrees to my operational skills. While I regularly draw on the technical skills and specialized training I learned in the military, it's my leadership experiences that I rely on the most.”

Col. Morgan’s official social media @astrodrewmorgan

Col. Morgan’s official NASA bio

NASA (Including NASA TV for live video of the April 16 departure, April 17 landing)