University of Alabama Alum to pilot SpaceX mission

Bob Hines Spacex
An out-of-this-world opportunity. (NASA)

Bob Hines, NASA astronaut and alum from The University of Alabama, is about to take off in his first flight to space on Wednesday, April 27. He will pilot the SpaceX Crew-4 mission on its journey to the International Space Station (ISS). Keep reading for all the far-out details.

A dream come true

Spacex Crew-4
The SpaceX Crew-4 team. (NASA)

Many of us dream of being able to fly into space, and Bob Hines is one of the few that actually get to do it.

Soon, Hines will be 250 miles up in the stars piloting the SpaceX Crew Dragon named Freedom. He is responsible for vehicle performance and systems on the mission.

“I’m really excited—this is a boyhood dream. It’s kind of surreal to be in a position like this. The first thing I want do when I get up there…once that the engine cuts off…I want to unstrap and go look out the window.” 

Bob Hines, Astronaut, in a NASA news conference.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission is the fourth crew rotation flight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which works to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS).

Hines will work outside the ISS to modify power systems as well as participate in a science expedition mission on the space station. Planned spacewalks also include Hines, meaning he will be able to exit the spacecraft and float in space to work on the exterior—talk about unbeatable views!

Making UA proud

Before he made his way to UA, Hines earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Boston University in 1997 and a master’s degree from the US Air Force Test Pilot School in 2008.

As his career progressed, Hines realized he not only wanted to learn how to fly aircrafts, but also how they worked. His solution—to join UA Online’s aerospace engineering master’s program.

He earned his master’s degree in aerospace engineering from The University of Alabama in 2010—roll tide!

“I needed a program that was flexible enough to handle the military lifestyle and to go with me wherever I moved. The distance learning at UA was the best fit for me, and the reputation of the engineering program there really appealed to me. Several test pilots recommended it to me.” 

Bob Hines, Astronaut, in a 2017 interview

After spending 21 years in the Air Force, he was selected out of 18,300 applicants to be one of 12 people in NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017.

“My time at Alabama was really important in laying down the foundation of what I needed as a test pilot and my astronaut career here as well.” 

Bob Hines, Astronaut

Watch the launch

After the original launch date was postponed due to heavy space traffic, Hines and three fellow astronauts will now blast off on Wednesday, April 27 at 3:52AM (EDT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.

Tune in on the SpaceX website to watch the launch for yourself.

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Gabby Gervais
Gabby Gervais
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