The U.S. Space Force (USSF) has announced plans to send one of its Guardians to space for the first time, in a mission to the International Space Station.
The mission, which will occur later this year, will include Guardian Nick Hague as pilot of the Space X Crew-9 mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft, which will travel to the orbital laboratory sometime after August 1, 2024.
Joining Hague will be Commander Zena Cardman and Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson, as well as a Roscomos cosmonaut, Aleksandr Gorbunov, also serving as a Mission Specialist.
As the first member of the USSF to travel to space, Hague will represent close to 14,000 Guardians who currently provide support for NASA and commercial space operations in their duties.
Hague says the primary focus of the six-month mission will be science experiments and data collection.
“The International Space Station provides a unique platform in microgravity,” Hague said in a statement, “which allows researchers from around the world to explore and discover processes that could have significant impact on the behavior of our bodies and the environment around us both on Earth and off planet.”
Upon arrival at the ISS, Hague will perform work as a flight engineer for the mission and will undertake a series of tests and other operations over the six months that he and his fellow astronauts are in orbit.
Although this will mark the first historic space mission performed by one of the USSF’s Guardians, Hague is no stranger to Earth’s orbit, having been on three space launches, one of which took him on his first mission to the ISS in 2019.
Hague’s first mission to the ISS was initially planned for 2018, although a rocket booster malfunction grounded the flight, postponing their arrival for five months. During his time in orbit, Hague performed a series of spacewalks that amounted to a total of almost 20 hours in space.
Following his return, Hague spent a short period at the Pentagon before formally transferring his duties from the Air Force to the Space Force in 2021.
Hague said it was a “unique honor” to be a part of his second mission to the ISS, now as a Guardian.
“Guardians worldwide ensure safe and secure operations of critical systems for launch and on station,” Hague said.
“From GPS satellites that underpin our station navigation systems, to space domain awareness sites around the globe that help NASA prevent orbital debris from colliding with the space station, to the launch range that my crew will use when we liftoff, Guardians provide critical support without which our NASA human spaceflight program wouldn’t be possible.”