167th Airlift Wing Delivers Test Spacecraft for NASA Mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
  • 167th Airlift Wing
The 167th Airlift Wing was enlisted recently to help in NASA's mission to return astronauts to the moon.
And in turn the Martinsburg unit carved out its special niche in space history.

A 15-member C-5 crew from the West Virginia Air National Guard based in Martinsburg was charged with delivering the Ares 1-X test crew module and launch abort system to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A refined version of the spacecraft will eventually be used to return astronauts to the moon. The test spacecraft is slated to be launched in July.

It took about six hours to load the test cargo into the massive belly of the C-5 at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on Jan. 27 which was delivered subsequently to a shuttle runway a day later at the space center in Florida. "We are a part of history," said Col. Roger L. Nye, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, who spearheaded the unit's mission to the Kennedy Space Center.

Col. Nye credits the C-5 loadmasters in helping to make the unit's mission the success it was.
"They did a phenomenal job," Col. Nye said. "Everyone at NASA was extremely pleased by the performance of the 167th Airlift Wing's air crew," the commander said.

Col. Nye said NASA officials were pleased with the unit's "attention to detail, dedication to safety and willingness to get the job done."

According to information provided by NASA, "The test flight, called Ares 1-X, will bring NASA one step closer to its exploration goals - to return to the moon for ambitious exploration of the lunar surface and then to travel to Mars and destinations beyond."

"The Ares 1-X flight will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operation associated with the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle. The test also will allow NASA to gather critical data during ascent of the integrated stack, which includes the Ares 1 vehicle with a simulated upper stage and the Orion crew module and launch abort system."

"Data collected will begin to confirm the vehicle as a whole is safe and stable in flight before astronauts begin to travel into orbit." According to NASA, the Ares 1-X test is one part of a complex flight test program which will eventually lead to the launch of the Orion spacecraft in early 2013.

Col. Nye said he was proud that the 167th Airlift Wing was tapped to bring the first test spacecraft in the program for launch at the Kennedy Space Center. While there, members of the unit were able to see the spacecraft being assembled for future launch. The 167th Airlift Wing commander said it was a boyhood dream to someday be an astronaut.

And while that may have not be in the stars for Col. Nye, he said being able to land on the runway which is home to the Space Shuttle was in itself a thrill which will last him a lifetime.