Northeast native tapped as top man in space

STS-135 crew and training team during CCT-II PRL Ingress/Egress training. Photo Date: May 24, 2011. Location: Building 9NW — CCTII Mockup. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

Chris Ferguson, a graduate of St. Martha Grammar School and Archbishop Ryan High School, will serve as commander of NASA’s final space shuttle mission.

The space shuttle Atlantis will depart for the International Space Station on July 8. The launch will be from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

For Ferguson, who grew up on Amity Road, it’ll be his third mission to the space station. In 2006, he was the pilot on a 12-day Atlantis trip. He returned in 2008, this time as commander of Endeavour on a 15-day mission.

Joining Ferguson, 49, on this trip will be pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. A four-person crew is low by NASA standards.

The foursome has been training since last September. Magnus was also part of the ’08 Endeavour voyage.

During the 12-day mission, Ferguson and the others will deliver a multi-purpose logistics module filled with supplies and spare parts to sustain operations at the space station; test the tools, technologies and techniques needed to robotically refuel satellites in space; and return an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station.

The space shuttle program started in 1981, and Atlantis made its maiden voyage in ’85.

The upcoming mission will be the 33rd for Atlantis and 135th and final one for the shuttle program.

In the future, NASA will focus on developing new spaceships and rockets for exploration of asteroids, the moon and Mars.

Atlantis will retire to the Kennedy Space Center. Endeavour will be on display at the California Science Center. The third shuttle, Discovery, will remain at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum.

Enterprise, which was used only for testing, will be housed at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan.

Interestingly, none of the shuttles will have their final homes at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.

Ferguson, a captain in the U.S. Navy, lives in Houston with his wife Sandra and three children.

After graduating from St. Martha (1975) and Ryan (1979), he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University in 1984. He went on to graduate in 1991 with a master’s in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He has been assigned to the Johnson Space Center since 1998. ••