Terry W. Virts, born December 1, 1967 in Baltimore, Maryland is a NASA Astronaut with one prior Shuttle mission, and a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
Born in Baltimore, Virts considers Columbia, Maryland his hometown, attending Oakland Mills High School from which he graduated in 1985. He then enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Academy, being awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in French in 1989. In 1988, as part of his studies, Virts attended French Air Force Academy on an exchange program.
Starting his military career, Virts received his commission as a second Lieutenant in 1989, earning his pilot wings from Williams Air Force Base one year later. Virts then transitioned to Homestead Air Force Base for basic fighter training on the F-16. As an operational pilot, Virts joined the 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron that moved to Moody Air Force Base in 1992. In 1993 and ’94, he served in the 36th Fighter Squadron at Osan Air Base in Korea performing low-altitude night attack missions in the F-16.
Coming back from his tour in Korea, Virts was assigned to the 22nd Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany for a three-year stint from 1995 to 1998 to conduct a total of 45 suppression of enemy air defenses missions. In 1997, Virts received a Master’s degree in Aeronautics at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
At Edwards Air Force Base, Virts attended Test Pilot School to become a Test Pilot at the F-16 Combined Test Force in 1999. At Edwards, he served as chief test pilot for the F-16 HARM Targeting System and the Multi-Mission Computer upgrade – two of the biggest upgrades of the F-16 in its 40-year history.
In total, Terry Virts logged over 4,300 flight hours in 40 different aircraft configurations.
In July 2000, Virts was selected as a NASA Astronaut candidate as part of the 18th Astronaut Group. He completed two years of basic training and evaluations, studying ISS and Shuttle mission operations. Upon completion of basic training, he began training for a mission as a Space Shuttle Pilot. Within the Astronaut Office, Virts worked as the program manager of T-38 flight operations.
He was also assigned technical duties as a Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) test crew member. Supporting mission operations, Virts was the ISS Expedition 9 Crew Support Astronaut and lead astronaut and he worked as Capcom at Mission Control for ISS Expeditions 8 through 19 and Shuttle missions STS-115 to 126. Later, Virts worked as Chief of the Astronaut Office Robotics Branch and lead astronaut for the Space Launch System heavy lift booster.
Terry Virts received his first flight assignment in 2008 when he was selected as pilot for the STS-130 mission on Space Shuttle Endeavour working with the mission’s commander George Zamka. The crew of six spent about one year training for their mission that was highlighted by the delivery of the Tranquility node and the Cupola to the International Space Station. Endeavour and its six crew members blasted off on February 8, 2010 and docked to ISS two days later.
Over the course of the mission, Terry Virts was the lead robotic crew member, operating the Shuttle’s and Station’s robotic arms for the transfer of the Node 3 module and the Cupola. Three EVAs were performed by Bob Behnken and Nicholas Patrick to outfit the exterior of the new Node module and perform a number of smaller maintenance and installation tasks on the ISS side. After the installation of Tranquility and the relocation of the Cupola, Virts was in charge of many of the internal reconfigurations needed to integrate the modules with the various space station systems.
Endeavour returned to Earth on February 21 to conclude a 13-day 18-hour mission of 217 orbits around the Earth.
Coming back from his Shuttle mission, Terry Virts started ISS training including operations at the Russian Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center to prepare for a flight aboard Soyuz. In 2011, Virts earned a degree in the General Management Program of Harvard Business School.
Terry Virts was assigned to the prime crew of Soyuz TMA-15M in late 2012 for a six-month flight as part of ISS Expedition 42/42 serving as Flight Engineer on Soyuz and ISS before becoming ISS commander for Expedition 43. Virts is joined by Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti who also form the backup crew of Soyuz TMA-13M.
The three crew members entered flight-specific training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, the Johnson Space Center, ESA’s Training Center and JAXA’s facilities. Shkaplerov and Virts completed survival training in a forest near Moscow in January 2013 and the entire crew completed final exams on the ISS and Soyuz simulators in May 2014, getting excellent grades to be confirmed as backup crew for Soyuz TMA-13M that launched later that month.
Terry Virts is married to Stacy Hill, they have two children. His hobbies include baseball, astronomy and coaching youth sports.