Michael Foale

Michael Foale
Colin Michael Foale
NASA Astronaut
Nationality British / American
Status Active
Born January 6, 1957 (1957-01-06) (age 54)
Louth, Lincolnshire, England
Other occupation Astrophysicist
Time in space 373d 18h 18m
Selection 1987 NASA Group
Missions STS-45, STS-56, STS-63, STS-84, Mir NASA-4 (Mir EO-23 and 24), STS-86, STS-103, Soyuz TMA-3, Expedition 8
Mission insignia Sts-45-patch.png Sts-56-patch.png Sts-63-patch.pngSts-84-patch.pngSts-86-patch.png Sts-103-patch.png Soyuz TMA-3 Patch white.jpg Expedition 8 insignia (iss patch).png

Colin Michael Foale, CBE, PhD (born 6 January 1957) is a British-American astrophysicist with dual citizenship and a NASA astronaut. He is a veteran of six space shuttle missions and extended stays on both Mir and the International Space Station. He was the first Briton to perform a space walk, and until 17 April 2008, he held the record for most time spent in space by a US citizen: 374 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes. He still holds the cumulative-time-in-space record for a UK citizen.


Life and career

Born in Louth, England (where Michael Foale Lane is named after him), to English father Colin and American mother Mary, he was raised in Cambridge and educated at The King's School, Canterbury. A member of the Air Training Corps, he studied at Queens' College, Cambridge, receiving a doctorate in laboratory astrophysics in 1982. When he left university he: "owned two pairs of jeans, a donkey jacket, a bicycle and a pilot’s licence; which shows I had my priorities absolutely right.”[1]

Foale joined the mission operations directorate of NASA in Houston in 1983 aged 26, working on the shuttle's navigation system. Born with dual-UK/US citizenship,[2] he applied and was turned down twice as an astronaut candidate. After the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986, Foale changed his application essay from writing about his dreams to focusing on the realities of leadership faced by NASA, and was selected in 1987.[1]

Michael Foale (foreground) exercising on the ISS
(click to enlarge)

He flew on space shuttle missions STS-45 (1992), STS-56 (1993) and STS-63 (1995). In the last mission he undertook a four-hour EVA. He was then selected for an extended mission aboard the Russian Mir space station.

Launched by STS-84 and returned by STS-86, Foale spent four months on Mir in 1997 during the Mir 23 and Mir 24 missions. During Mir 23, the station was struck by a Progress resupply vessel. Using knowledge from his physics degree Foale made calculations of how the stars were moving past his fixed-point thumb reference on a window, and was thus able to advise Russian ground control of how to stop the resulting roll.[1] The two Russian cosmonauts of Mir 23, Vasily Tsibliyev and Aleksandr Lazutkin, conducted an intravehicular activity (IVA) to inspect the collision damage from the interior of the space station. During Mir 24, Foale and Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev conducted a six-hour EVA in the Russian Orlan spacesuit to inspect exterior damage to the station's Spektr module. For his efforts, he was awarded the Yuri A. Gagarin Gold Medal by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.[3]

In 1999, Foale was a member of space shuttle mission STS-103, during which he conducted an eight-hour spacewalk to replace components of the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2003, Foale was named commander of International Space Station Expedition 8 with cosmonaut Aleksandr Kaleri. Their six-month tour of duty on the station ended on April 29, 2004. For about a year, Foale was Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Operations at NASA HQ, Washington D.C. He currently supports Soyuz and ISS operations and spacesuit development for NASA in Houston.

Foale was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside in July 2000[4] and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Kent in September 2000.[5] He was named a Commander in the Order of the British Empire in the diplomatic list of the New Year Honours in December 2004.[6]

Personal life

Married with two children, Foale and his family live in suburban Houston, Texas. He is fluent in Russian.

Foale was the driver of a car in 1980 in Yugoslavia, when a truck accidentally veered across the road and smashed into his car, killing his then girlfriend and his brother.[1]

His father, Colin Foale, wrote a book in 1999 titled Waystation to the Stars about the astronaut's experiences on Mir.

Foale is qualified to fly both fixed wing aeroplanes up to fast jets, as well as helicopters. He has never owned a brand new car, and his hobbies include windsurfing and cross-country skiing.


  1. ^ a b c d On the move: Michael Foale Sunday Times - September 16, 2007
  2. ^ BNSC - People and space
  3. ^ FAI Awards received by C. Michael FOALE (USA)
  4. ^ Roger p@rsons_world:
  5. ^ News archive - 2000 University of Kent - 28 September 2000
  6. ^ British-born astronaut given CBE BBC News - 31 December, 2004

External links

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