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Former Fort Bragg flight surgeon to launch into space this month

U.S. Army Col. Andrew Morgan receives a combat brassard, a WWII artifact from Paul Morando, chief, Exhibits Division for the National Museum of the U.S. Army, May 30, 2019. The artifact will be flown to the International Space Station for Morgan's mission and will be returned to the Museum upon his return in Spring 2020. (Anthony McKinney/ Defense Media Activity/Released)

A former Fort Bragg flight surgeon is counting down the days until he becomes the first Army doctor to launch into space.

Col. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is scheduled to leave July 20 for the nine-month mission on the International Space Station.

Morgan recently spoke about his upcoming mission from Star City, Russia.

“I often say that I’m a soldier, a physician and an astronaut, and I made that decision to be a soldier first when I was 18 years old, and I’m very, very proud of that,” Morgan said Monday, adding that his experiences in the Army contributed to the skills he’s added through NASA.

Morgan, who has more than 20 years of military experience, came to Fort Bragg in 2005 after completing his emergency medical residency at what was then Fort Lewis, Washington.

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He spent more than five years at Fort Bragg. He served as an emergency room doctor at Womack Army Medical Center and was a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, known as the Golden Knights, before joining the 3rd Special Forces Group.

For most of his time at Fort Bragg, Morgan served with 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group as a battalion surgeon, deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

In 2013, Morgan was selected from more than 6,000 applicants to be one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class.

He is now part of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command’s astronaut detachment. The command provides support to NASA and has two astronauts and one astronaut candidate as “Army ambassadors to NASA.”

Once selected to NASA’s candidate school, Morgan’s training shifted to flight training to prepare for wearing a pressure suit, robotics and space systems and maintenance and Russian-language courses.

In May 2018, it was announced that Morgan would be part of Expedition 60/61 and launch to the International Space Station from a Russian Soyuz rocket and spacecraft.

Morgan will board a Soyuz MS-13 craft at 12:28 p.m. on July 20 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

That day also will be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

“What better way to commemorate a huge achievement and a space flight exploration than with another space flight?” Morgan said. “And you know this is all happening in the same year that NASA had made the bold plan, laid out a bold plan called the Artemis program to put humans back on the surface of the moon no later than 2024. So it’s an exciting time in our space program right now.”

Morgan and his team will join NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague and station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos for Expedition 60, and stay behind for Expedition 61.

This will be Morgan’s first flight to space, Parmitano’s second and Skvortsov’s third.

Morgan is scheduled to remain aboard the station until April 2020.

Morgan has spent hours training for extravehicular activity spacewalks, time in the vacuum chamber and simulating reduced gravity in a neutral buoyancy laboratory that uses virtual reality. His last spacewalk training in the neutral buoyancy lab was June 4.

Morgan spent last week in Russia taking his final exams related to the International Space Station’s Russian segment, completing the Soyuz final exam Friday.

“We train right up until the final days before launch, and so training is a huge part of what we’re doing right up until the last moment,” Morgan said Monday. “”We want to keep all of our skills fresh on our minds and we have lots of important procedures that we’re going to be running the moment that we launch.”

He said every moment of the nine months he’s abroad the International Space Station is accounted for, from maintenance of the space station to science experiments.

Among the research is comparing how fluids and blood shift in the body while in space, a virial neuroscience study that studies how balance and coordination work on Earth and in space.

“We’ll probably prepare for a number of spacewalks during my time on board,” Morgan said.

And as he’s counting down the final days, Morgan said preparing his family for the separation is similar to a deployment — something he said the military has prepared his supportive family for.

“I’m still an Army officer, and I’m serving my country, serving the international community, serving the International Space Service program,” Morgan said. “And this is truly an extension of that, and I’m just privileged to be part of it.”

Morgan’s launch and time aboard the International Space Station can be tracked through his Twitter @AstroDrewMorgan.

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© 2019 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.