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Alumnus takes command of ISS

A. J. (Drew) Feustel, Queen’s alumnus and astronaut, has taken command of the ISS for Expedition 56 after three months in space.

  • [Dr. Feustel floats above the Earth (Photo: University Relations)]
    Dr. Feustel floats above the Earth, representing Queen’s. (Photo: University Relations)
  • [Kingston as seen from the ISS (Photo: @Astro_Feustel on Twitter)]
    Kingston, as seen by Dr. Feustel from the International Space Station on May 10, 2018. (Photo: @Astro_Feustel on Twitter)
  • [Dr. Feustel during his spacewalk on March 29, 2018 (Photo: @Astro_Feustel on Twitter)]
    Dr. Feustel pauses for a photo during his six and a half hour spacewalk on March 29, 2018. (Photo: @Astro_Feustel on Twitter)
  • [A rock and roll concert on the ISS (Photo: @OlegMKS on Twitter)]
    Dr. Feustel and his crewmates jam out together on the ISS. (Photo: @OlegMKS on Twitter)

A. J. (Drew) Feustel (PhD’95) became commander of Expedition 56 on the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, June 1.

The Change of Command Ceremony involved Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos handing over command of the station to Dr. Feustel. The ceremony was streamed live through NASATV.

Three of the Expedition 55 crew return to Earth on June 3, marking the official beginning of Expedition 56 as Dr. Feustel, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev continue as a three-person crew for several days. Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Valerevich, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, and NASA astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor will arrive on June 6 to complete the Expedition 56 crew.

Expedition 56 continues the international research work of Expedition 55, which brought Dr. Feustel to the ISS as a Flight Engineer. The patch for Expedition 56 features a dove with an olive branch in its beak, symbolizing the hope for peace that comes from international space collaboration. The patch has a special significance to Dr. Feustel; his son, Aden, designed it.

Dr. Feustel has had a busy three months aboard the station, now halfway through his time there. On top of the dozens of scientific experiments he and his crew have conducted already, he has also worked on repairs to the outside of the ISS, taken photos of home below, and even starred in a rock concert.

Drs. Feustel and Arnold performed the 100th spacewalk by ISS crewmembers on March 29. For over six hours, the astronauts installed a new communications antenna and replaced camera equipment on the outside of the ISS. This was followed by another spacewalk on May 16 to replace pumps for the station’s thermal control system and other equipment. Dr. Feustel is now ranked seventh for most cumulative time spent spacewalking.

Dr. Artemyev shared a photo of an impromptu concert in space. Dr. Feustel called it ‘the first guitar jam in space with amplifiers and effects’. The photo features the crew playing guitars, flutes, and a drum.

Every 90 minutes (the time it takes for the ISS to make a rotation around the Earth), Dr. Feustel can look down from the station and see the provinces and states he spent the first 32 years of his life in, including Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and Indiana.

“Congratulations to my alma mater Queen’s and Canadian partner universities on the launch of the McDonald Institute,” Dr. Feustel said in a tweet on May 10, including a photo of Kingston taken from the ISS (408 km above sea level). “Wonderful to see it named after Queen’s Nobel Laureate, Art McDonald!”

To learn more about Dr. Feustel’s journey from Queen’s to the ISS, check out our previous stories: