By Jason Cutshaw (SMDC/ARSTRAT)December 6, 2018
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - Five, four, three, two ... once more a Soldier leads the way into the final frontier.
Army astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, aboard a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft Dec. 3 for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.
"Army astronauts have a very proud legacy in the astronaut program," McClain said. "I can tell you that just like everywhere else in the Army, the biggest attributes that we can bring to the table are leadership and team skills, and those traits that I learned in the Army as both a follower and as a leader working in austere environments with small groups in high gain tasks where lives are at risk have absolutely transferred over into my time at NASA, and I think that is the best thing that we can bring to NASA.
"In the Army we talk a lot about leadership and team skills because it is absolutely the force multiplier that makes us successful," she added. "What I learned in the Army, not just academically, but what I learned to apply, was that my best role on the team was enabling the success of everyone around me."
McClain, alongside her crewmembers David Saint-Jacques from Canada and Oleg Kononenko from Russia, launched from the cosmodrome's famous "Gagarin's Start" launch pad. It is the same one where the world's first manmade satellite "Sputnik 1" launched from in 1957 as well as the first human in space, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
Following a six-hour journey, the crew made four orbits around the Earth before docking the Soyuz to the station to begin their mission on the orbital laboratory.
During her time aboard the ISS, McClain will participate with her crew in facilitating some 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations not possible on Earth. Among these, McClain is expected to take part in one of the first "Tissues on Chips" investigation. The experiment will use miniature models of living organ tissues on transparent microchips to replicate the complex biological functions of specific organs.
Other scientific research projects underway during this mission will cover a wide range of fields, including chemistry, computer science, sociology, molecular biology, additive manufacturing and nanosatellite engineering.
The U.S. Army's involvement in the nation's space program dates back to the launch of United States' first satellite, Explorer 1, and the first U.S. astronaut was launched on an Army rocket. Through the years, 18 Army astronauts have been selected by NASA.
As a Soldier, McClain is assigned to the U. S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's NASA Astronaut Detachment and serves as a NASA flight crew member and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems.
McClain explained how the Army helped hone her skills and said she hopes to be able to transition that to where her presence on the team can enable others to achieve more than they ever thought they could accomplish.
"I think the most important thing is that we will always perform best at what we are passionate about," McClain said. "I think there is a common stereotype that these are jet pilots from the Air Force and the Navy that do this kind of thing. But what I realized was I was passionate and I wanted to fly but I wanted to fly helicopters, and I wanted to be with Soldiers and I wanted to be in the Army. That was my path.
"You look at my astronaut class, we have scientists and we have engineers and we have people who have never been in the military. The thing we have in common, all of us, is the pursuit of passion. Follow your passion with the endstate of your goals in mind, but you got to get up every morning loving what you do and there is a place in the Army for every type of person."
McClain's space adventure can and be followed on Twitter using @AstroAnnimal.