Blast Off: NASA Astronaut With Pittsburgh Roots to Serve Aboard International Space Station
Warren ‘Woody’ Hoburg will serve as pilot of the 6-month SpaceX Crew-6 Mission.
It’s a plot straight from Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story,” only this time, Woody is preparing to be launched into space.
Warren “Woody” Hoburg, that is.
The NASA astronaut and 2004 graduate of North Allegheny High School will travel to the International Space Station with three other astronauts for the SpaceX Crew-6 Mission, tentatively scheduled for 2:07 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Hoburg, 37, will serve as the mission’s pilot, and will be joined by Mission Commander Stephen Bowen of NASA, Flight Engineer Sultan AlNeyadi, a United Arab Emirates astronaut, and Roscosmos cosmonaut and Mission Specialist Andrey Fedyaev to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The crew will spend six months aboard the spacecraft that floats 254 miles above the Earth. The Space Station orbits Earth every 90 minutes at a velocity of 17,500 mph. It weighs nearly 1 million pounds and has the space of a six-bedroom home.
Hoburg was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. He reported for duty in August 2017 and has completed the initial astronaut candidate training, his NASA biography reads.
In a NASA video introducing the Class of 2017 cadets, Hoburg noted he and his best friend threw their hats into the ring. Though it was his friend’s idea, he unfortunately couldn’t continue with the process due to prior engagements.
“I used to fly amateur rockets as one of my hobbies in high school,” Hoburg added. “That’s really what got me interested in engineering and following this career path. In high school, I was always taking things apart, and I enjoyed learning how things worked and solving problems.”
In the interview, he also encourages young people to: “Do cool things, do things you’re excited about and do important things.”
Hoburg earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an instrument-rated commercial pilot in single-engine and multi-engine airplanes.
He is also an avid rock climber and mountaineer.
In a Jan. 25 NASA-led interview, the crew was asked if they are concerned with the amount of debris that has been “zinging around” in space, especially since they will be on the mission for six months.
Hoburg replied, “Certainly there’s been a lot of concern about this recently. We know when the big stuff is coming, and we are able to move the Space Station out of the way.”
He added there are safety procedures in place if there is a situation where they can’t effectively move the station. The crew is also trained to handle three emergency class events they could face on the Space Station — fire, depressurization and toxic atmosphere.
“All of the engineers do a really great job of dealing with those things when they come up,” Hoburg said.
In reply to press inquiries regarding American astronauts working closely with Roscosmos during times of conflict in Ukraine, Bowen replied that the crew members all have the same goal and it is really just focusing on the mission at hand.
What will the foursome be tasked with over the 182-day mission?
Bowen said hundreds of scientific experiments, such as combustion and weightlessness experiments, will be conducted. He is most looking forward to the opportunity to live aboard the Space Station, as he has previously spent two weeks aboard the spacecraft.
“I get to live in a house that I helped build,” he said.
Hoburg added, “I think back to six months ago and think, ‘OK, that’s a long time!’ We certainly need to take care of ourselves — sleeping, eating and exercising quite a bit. When we are not doing that, we will be working.”
He explained half of the time they will conduct amazing scientific research in the “unique, weightless environment.” The other half will be keeping the spacecraft flying by conducting maintenance, repairs and sometimes spacewalks or Extravehicular Activities.
“We may take some swabs outside to try and get a sense of what source of biological material is located outside of the Space Station, which is relevant for planetary protection when we think about going to Mars, so we are starting to get ahead of those things as we look ahead to future missions,” Hoburg added. “When we arrive, I’m looking forward to looking out the window!”
What personal items will he take aboard the ISS?
Hoburg said unfortunately he lost his father, Jim, over the summer, so he will be taking a photo of him into space.
Hoburg noted while the training they have received is amazing, there is always a level of uncertainty as a first-time flier that’s hard to remove.
“I’m flying into something completely unknown,” he added, “and I think that poses its own challenges.”
Tickets for the upcoming launch can be purchased here. You can also watch the live launch here.