Mark Polansky is a former NASA Astronaut and veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, all of which contributed to assembly of the International Space Station (ISS). He flew on STS-98, STS-116, and STS-127 accumulating close to 1000 hours in space.
Polansky graduated from Purdue University with both a B.S. and M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force (USAF) and was subsequently a distinguished graduate from USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training. Polansky then served as a Fighter Pilot in the F-15 and F-5E aircraft. He was then selected to attend USAF Test Pilot School, where he was a distinguished graduate. Polansky’s final Air Force assignment was as a Test Pilot in the F-15 and A-10 aircraft.
Following his Air Force career, Polansky joined NASA as an Instructor and Research Pilot at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In that capacity, he instructed all astronauts in the T-38 aircraft, and he instructed all Shuttle pilots in NASA’s Shuttle Training Aircraft.
Selected as an astronaut in 1996, Polansky flew three Shuttle missions in space. His first flight was STS-98 in 2001 onboard Atlantis, where he served as the Pilot. This flight delivered the US Destiny Laboratory Module to the ISS.
Originally selected to be the Pilot of STS-117 for his second mission, Polansky was moved up to STS-116 following the Columbia mishap, and he was promoted from Pilot to Commander. In 2006 onboard Discovery, STS-116 continued assembly of the ISS with delivery of the P5 Truss segment. During the mission the ISS electrical system transitioned from its initial configuration to the permanent one.
Polansky’s final flight, STS-127, was onboard Endeavour in 2009. This flight delivered the Japanese Exposed Facility to the ISS. The flight was notable for several firsts: the first Shuttle to dock with ISS which had expanded to a crew of 6, the first time that a total of 13 crew members lived and worked onboard ISS at the same time, and the first time that an Astronaut/Cosmonaut from every ISS partner agency was on orbit together. The mission also consisted of 5 planned spacewalks or EVAs.
In addition to his spaceflights, Polansky held various other leadership positions within the NASA Astronaut Office including Chief Instructor Astronaut, Chief CAPCOM (Spacecraft Communicator), Chief of Return to Flight, Chief of the Shuttle Branch, and Director of Operations Russia at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
In addition to supporting astronaut appearances, Polansky is currently an aerospace executive in support of NASA and the ISS, as well as the commercial spaceflight industry.