Press Release

Astronaut Kathryn (Kay) Hire Retires from NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
March 21, 2019
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After a 30-year career with NASA, Astronaut Kay Hire retired from the agency on Feb. 28.

Hire joined the NASA team in 1989 where she worked as a space shuttle orbiter mechanical systems engineer, test project engineer, and supervisor of space shuttle orbiter mechanical systems and launch pad access swing arms at Kennedy Space Center. Hire processed space shuttles from landing through ground preparations and launch countdowns for more than 40 missions.

“Kay has had an extensive career both at NASA and in the military. We are thankful for her 30-year career with NASA and the contributions that she has made to the space program,” said Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester.

Hire reported to the Johnson Space Center in 1995 as a member of Astronaut Group 15, becoming the first astronaut selected from the Kennedy Space Center workforce. She flew to space for the first time as a mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Columbia for the 16-day Spacelab Neurolab mission, STS-90, in 1998. The seven-member crew played both the role of experiment subjects and operators for 26 life science experiments focused on the effects of microgravity on the brain and central nervous system.

Hire flew to space on a second mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour for STS-130 in 2010 to help assemble the International Space Station. Hire and her crewmates delivered and outfitted Node 3, also known as the Tranquility module, and the Cupola, a seven-windowed portal for the space station which has been a focal point of the station since installation. As a mission specialist, Hire operated the robotic arms, led the transfer of 4,500 pounds of cargo, and helped install water recycling, air cleaning and cooling, and crew exercise equipment in Node 3 and cupola.

Between her space flights, Hire supported missions in various roles including Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) in mission control, Astronaut Support Personnel where she strapped crew members into the space shuttle orbiter for launch, and management astronaut in which she helped develop procedures for commercial spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space Station.

Hire also spent time at NASA Wallops Flight Facility and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where she was chief liaison to the Department of Defense.

Originally from Mobile, Alabama, Hire graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy, and was designated a Naval Flight Officer. She conducted worldwide airborne oceanographic research missions, flying to 25 countries.

In 1993, Hire became the first woman in the U. S. military to be assigned to a combat air crew, when she reported to Patrol Squadron Sixty-Two (VP-62) to fly the P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.  Hire served in multiple leadership roles throughout her Navy career, spanning operational missions as well as research and development of new technologies.  She served in the Navy a total of 35 years and achieved the rank of Navy Captain.

Hire logged more than 3,400 flight hours in various aircraft, and more than 711 hours in space.

Find Hire’s complete biography at:

SpaceRef staff editor.