Spaceflight: The Marine Astronauts Part 3—Return to the Moon and Beyond: 2020–Today

Learn about the individual U.S. Marines who have made significant contributions to the success of spaceflight.


Spaceflight: The Marine Astronauts features artifacts and imagery from U.S. Marine Corps astronauts who have made and continue to make significant contributions to the space program. This online version of the exhibition is divided into three sections and covers distinctive phases of the space program: To the Moon: 1961–1969; Building A Permanent Presence: 1970–2019; and New Ventures: Return to the Moon and Beyond: 2020–Today.

SpaceX CrewDragon ISS by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

New Ventures: Return to the Moon and Beyond: 2020–Today

For the first time since 2011, NASA astronauts launched from the United States aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour on 30 May 2020. Heralding a new era in human spaceflight, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is the first commercial, reusable spacecraft to carry crews and supplies to and from the ISS. 

Boeing is also developing a commercial spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, to service the ISS. NASA, in partnership with commercial companies and international space agencies, is leading the Artemis Program with the goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024. Additionally, using the Orion deep-space exploration spacecraft and the Gateway lunar orbital station, Artemis missions are anticipated to reach Mars by the early 2040s.

Future space exploration will include Marines with the skills, dedication and sacrifice needed to accomplish historic missions of discovery. Marine astronauts are likely to go to the Moon, voyage to Mars, and journey into deep space.

Colonel Douglas G. Hurley (2020) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Douglas G. Hurley

Doug Hurley served in the Marine Corps for 24 years as a pilot and astronaut. He joined NASA in 2000, and in 2011 piloted Atlantis on STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program. In 2018, NASA selected Hurley to be the  Spacecraft Commander for the first crewed demonstration of the commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. 

Between May and August 2020, Hurley and pilot Bob Behnken completed a 62-day mission to the ISS via the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour. Hurley spent 93 days in space during his career, and retired from NASA in July 2021.

Douglas Hurley SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 Flight Polo Shirt (2020) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 Flight Polo Shirt

Marine astronaut Douglas Hurley flew with this mission shirt as commander of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft in June 2020. This historic mission was the first crewed flight of a private company’s spacecraft and marked the return of American-crewed space launches and ocean splashdowns.

“If you told me as a young Marine officer that I would go on to pilot the space shuttle, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. To have the honor to be the last ever shuttle pilot on STS-135 and then to be chosen to command the first test flight of a commercial space vehicle from the United States surpassed even my highest expectations. I’m eternally grateful to the Marine Corps for giving me all the tools and experiences that made me who I am today.”-Colonel Douglas G. Hurley

Lieutenant Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann (2019) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Lieutenant Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann

Nicole Mann, commissioned in 1999, flew F/A-18 Hornets on 47 combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan prior to her selection as an astronaut candidate in June 2013. Mann led NASA astronauts assisting with the development of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and is part of the flight test crew for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner.

In December 2020, NASA named Mann to the Artemis Team, whose mission is to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024. Mann is one of three Marine astronauts who may journey to the Moon as part of the Artemis Project. 

“Just as Marines lead in our nation’s battles, Marines will continue to lead in human spaceflight. To do what some once thought impossible requires dedication and perseverance, values entrenched in me as a Marine.”
-Lieutenant Colonel Nicole Aunapu Mann

Major Jasmin Moghbeli (2017) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Major Jasmin Moghbeli

Jasmin Moghbeli received her USMC commission in 2005 after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an aerospace engineer. Between 2008 and 2012, she completed three deployments and flew more than 150 combat missions piloting helicopter gunships. 

NASA selected Moghbeli for astronaut training in 2017 and named her to the Artemis Team in December 2020.  Assigned to NASA’s Human Exploration Office, Moghbeli is assisting with the design of the SpaceX Human Landing System Starship, selected by NASA in April 2021 as the lunar  

“So much of what I’ve learned in the Marine Corps has carried over to my work in the space program. As Marines, we tackle the seemingly impossible knowing we will prevail because we will improvise, we will adapt, and we will overcome no matter what it takes. That spirit has proven to be invaluable as I work amongst a team of equally passionate people to develop new spacecraft that will take humankind farther in the solar system than ever before.”-Major Jasmin Moghbeli

Sergeant Joseph Acaba by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Sergeant Joseph M. Acaba

Joseph Acaba is one of three Marine astronauts currently assigned to NASA’s Artemis Team, training to return to the Moon in 2024. Prior to joining NASA in 2004, Acaba served for six years in the USMC Reserve, attaining the rank of sergeant.  

Acaba’s first space flight was aboard the Discovery as a mission specialist in 2009. He followed this achievement with two missions to the ISS as the Flight Engineer for Expeditions 31/32 in 2012 and 53/54 in 2018. To date, Acaba has logged a total of 306 days in space.

“There are so many paths someone can take to become an astronaut. The common theme for me in all of my career choices is a call to public service. This is something the Marine Corps instilled in me early, and it’s a calling I still respond to today as an astronaut. In space, it’s important to know how to work together and adapt to any challenges, and the military shares a lot of these values.”-Sergeant Joseph M. Acaba

Credits: Story

The exhibition Spaceflight: The Marine Astronauts was developed by the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It is on exhibit at the Museum through January 2024.

Images used in this exhibition appear courtesy of NASA.

Credits: All media
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