Terry W. Virts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Terry W. Virts
Born (1967-12-01) December 1, 1967 (age 55)
Occupation(s)Director, writer, speaker, consultant, pilot
Space career
NASA Astronaut
RankColonel US Air Force
Time in space
213 days 10 hours 48 minutes
Selection2000 NASA Group
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
19 hours 2 minutes
MissionsSTS-130, Soyuz TMA-15M (Expedition 42/43)
Mission insignia

Terry W. Virts (born December 1, 1967) is a retired NASA astronaut,[1] International Space Station Commander and colonel in the United States Air Force.

Background and education[edit]

Virts was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but considers Columbia, Maryland, to be his hometown. He graduated from Oakland Mills High School in 1985. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics (with a French minor) from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989 and a Master of Aeronautical Science degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1997. While at the Air Force Academy, Virts attended the École de l'Air in 1988 on an exchange program.[1]

Military career[edit]

Virts was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989 and earned his pilot wings at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. He completed basic fighter lead-in training at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico followed by formal training in the F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 56th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

He was then assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. After Hurricane Andrew struck southern Florida in 1992, his squadron was moved to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. He was later assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, and the 22nd Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.[2]

Virts was selected for Test Pilot School in 1997 at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Following graduation, he was an Experimental Test Pilot at the F-16 Combined Test Force.[2] He has logged more than 5,300 flight hours in 40 different aircraft.[1]

NASA career[edit]

Virts gives the Vulcan salute to Boston, Massachusetts—Leonard Nimoy's hometown—after hearing of Nimoy's death.

Terry Virts' NASA career spanned several pivotal roles and space missions, showcasing his dedication and expertise in the field of astronautics. In the year 2000,[3] Virts achieved a significant milestone, when he was selected as a Space Shuttle pilot by NASA. His career was marked by a series of important technical assignments and mission roles.[4]

One of his notable assignments was serving as the lead astronaut for the NASA T-38 program, where he contributed to the training and preparation of fellow astronauts. Virts also played a crucial role as a member of the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) test crew, participating in critical systems testing and integration efforts.[4]

In 2004, Virts supported Expedition 9 as a crew support astronaut,[1] providing valuable assistance to the mission's crew members. Additionally, he took on the role of a Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM), acting as a vital link between ground control and astronauts in space.[1]

Virts' contributions extended to the Space Launch System (SLS) program, where he served as the lead astronaut, playing an instrumental role in the development and advancement of this vital component of NASA's future missions.[1]

On February 8, 2010, Terry Virts embarked on his maiden spaceflight as the pilot of STS-130 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.[5] This historic mission marked the final assembly flight of the International Space Station and delivered the Tranquility module as well as the Cupola. The mission concluded with a safe landing on February 22, 2010.[2]

Following this achievement, Virts embarked on another journey. On November 23, 2014, he launched aboard Soyuz TMA-15M alongside fellow astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their successful docking at the International Space Station approximately six hours later underscored Virts' adaptability and expertise in different spacecraft.[6]

In a unique moment during his time in space, on February 28, 2015, Virts paid tribute to the late Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed Spock. He tweeted an image of himself from the International Space Station, striking the Vulcan salute—a gesture associated with Spock[7]—as the ISS flew over Boston, MA, Nimoy's birthplace.[8][9]

With the impending departure of Soyuz TMA-14M in March 2015, Terry Virts assumed the role of the commander of the International Space Station, leading Expedition 43. This leadership position showcased his competence and ability to manage complex operations in the challenging environment of space.[4][10]

The Soyuz TMA-15M mission, commanded by Virts, concluded with a successful landing on June 11, 2015, in Kazakhstan, further adding to his list of space achievements.[11]

In August 2016, after a long career filled with contributions and space missions, Terry Virts retired[12] from NASA, leaving behind a legacy of dedication in the realm of space exploration. His multifaceted career, marked by significant technical roles and missions, significantly contributed to NASA's mission success and the advancement of human spaceflight.

Post-NASA career[edit]

Following his career at NASA, Terry Virts embarked on a multifaceted post-astronaut journey that has seen him become a noticeable figure in the fields of public speaking, podcast appearances,[13] including creating a podcast: "Down To Earth",[14] business consultancy, literature, film-making, and screenwriting. Virts has extended his reach as a global public speaker, captivating audiences with his insights and experiences gained from his time in space and aviation exploration.[15]

In addition to his speaking engagements, Terry Virts has applied his expertise to the realm of business consultancy, offering valuable insights to various industries.[16] He leverages his unique perspective as a former astronaut[12] to provide innovative solutions and strategies for organizations seeking to navigate complex challenges.

Virts has also made a significant impact as an author, and in the film world, demonstrating his versatility in the creative arts. He is actively involved in the development of literary and screen projects, contributing his expertise and storytelling prowess to various ventures.

One notable achievement in Terry Virts' post-NASA career was his participation in a historic aviation expedition. In 2019, he was part of a pioneering crew of eight aviation explorers who successfully achieved the fastest circumnavigation of Earth via both geographic poles by airplane. This remarkable feat was accomplished on July 11, 2019, in a world-record time of 46 hours, 40 minutes, and 22 seconds. The exceptional accomplishment earned recognition from Guinness World Records and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI),[17] solidifying Virts' legacy in the annals of aviation history.

Furthermore, Terry Virts made a notable appearance on "The Joe Rogan Experience." on December 11, 2020,[18] where he engaged in a wide-ranging conversation, sharing his insights and experiences with a global audience through the podcast.

Awards and honors[edit]

Terry Virts' notable achievements and awards encompass a distinguished career in both the military and space exploration. He earned his academic credentials with distinction from renowned institutions, including the United States Air Force Academy and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Moreover, his military training was marked by excellence, as he graduated as a distinguished student from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams Air Force Base, in Arizona and successfully completed F-16 training at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Throughout his military service, Terry Virts received several prestigious decorations and medals in recognition of his outstanding contributions and service. These include:

  1. Meritorious Service Medal: Awarded for exceptional meritorious service, highlighting Virts' dedication and commitment during his military career.
  2. Air Medal: Recognizing his courageous actions and exceptional achievements in aerial combat or significant flight operations.
  3. Aerial Achievement Medal: Commending his exceptional accomplishments in aerial flight missions, displaying his remarkable skills and expertise.
  4. Air Force Commendation Medal: Acknowledging his commendable performance and meritorious service in the United States Air Force.[1]

In addition to his military accolades, Terry Virts left his mark on space history as a member of Expedition 42 aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Notably, the European Space Agency commissioned Lego mini-figures to honor the crew members of Expedition 42, including Terry Virts,[19] Samantha Cristoforetti, and Anton Shkaplerov. The mini-figures symbolize their significant contributions to international space exploration and stand as a testament to their achievements during their time on the ISS.[20]


  • Virts, Terry (2017). View From Above: An Astronaut Photographs the World. National Geographic. – A coffee table book from National Geographic; contains mostly photographs of Earth, with additional photos of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the International Space Station and related subjects; also contains stories about Virts' experiences as an astronaut.
  • Virts, Terry (2019). Apo11o: To the Moon and Back. Book Arts. – A limited edition, luxury replication of the Apollo 11 Flight Plan.
  • Virts, Terry (2020). How To Astronaut. Workman Publishing. – An Insiders Guide To Leaving Planet Earth.[21]

See also[edit]

  • A Beautiful Planet – 2016 IMAX documentary film showing scenes of Earth which features Virts and other ISS astronauts.
  • One More Orbit – A mission and documentary film. In 2019, Virts circumnavigated the planet in a Gulfstream G650 via the North and South Poles in honor of the Apollo 11 mission's 50th anniversary. The mission broke the world time and speed records, earning Guinness World and FAI records.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Terry W. Virts, Jr. (Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired) NASA Astronaut" (PDF). NASA. March 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Capt. Corinna Jones (January 29, 2010). "1989 Academy graduate to pilot STS-130 shuttle mission". U.S. Air Force Academy. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  3. ^ @NatGeoUK (April 19, 2022). "Terry Virts". National Geographic. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Newcomb, Alyssa (March 11, 2015). "NASA Astronaut Hands Over Command of International Space Station". ABC News. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  5. ^ Moore, Andrew (September 14, 2018). "Former NASA astronaut Terry Virts bringing out-of-this-world stories to Peace Center". GREENVILLE JOURNAL. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  6. ^ Associated Press. "Crew docks at International Space Station". USA Today. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  7. ^ Izadi, Elahe (December 3, 2021). "The touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy from space". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  8. ^ "Leonard Nimoy | Biography & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. August 14, 2023. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  9. ^ Associated Press. "Astronaut Sends Vulcan Tribute to Leonard Nimoy From Final Frontier". NBC News. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  10. ^ Strickland, Ashley (December 31, 2020). "Astronaut Terry Virts shares an 'insider's guide' to life in space". CNN. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  11. ^ "After 28 Weeks in Orbit, Multi-National Soyuz TMA-15M Crew Returns Safely to Earth - AmericaSpace". www.americaspace.com. June 11, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  12. ^ a b Canales, Christina (August 23, 2016). "Veteran Astronaut Terry Virts Retires from NASA". NASA. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  13. ^ "[How to Astronaut] | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  14. ^ Daisy Dobrijevic (June 16, 2021). "Get 'Down to Earth' with former NASA astronaut Terry Virts in new podcast". Space.com. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  15. ^ "Terry Virts". Premium Speakers. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  16. ^ Time running out for missing sub | CNN, June 22, 2023, retrieved October 6, 2023
  17. ^ Woodyatt, Amy (July 11, 2019). "Flight crew breaks record for circumnavigating globe via both poles". Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "#1577 Terry Virts". The Joe Rogan Experience. December 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  19. ^ "Astronauts Get Their Own LEGO Minifigures on Space Station". Yahoo News. January 10, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  20. ^ "Astronauts get their own LEGO minifigures on space station". collectSPACE.com. January 8, 2015. Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  21. ^ Ashley Strickland (December 31, 2020). "Astronaut Terry Virts shares an 'insider's guide' to life in space". CNN. Retrieved July 4, 2023.

External links[edit]

Preceded by ISS Expedition Commander
March 10, 2015, to June 11, 2015
Succeeded by