Astronaut Ron Garan: From Yonkers to the Stars

In the vast expanse of the cosmos, where few have dared to venture, Ronald John Garan Jr. reached beyond Yonkers to embody the unyielding spirit of human exploration.

Learn to fly

Born on October 30, 1961, in the humble city of Yonkers, New York, Ron Garan’s journey from the streets of Yonkers to the stars above is a remarkable story of service and achievement.

Ron Garan graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1979. From there, he embarked on an educational mission that would prepare him for the challenges of space. First, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business economics from the SUNY Oneonta in 1982. Then, he went on to achieve a Master of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1994. Lastly, a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Florida in 1996.

Military service

Garan’s educational pursuits were a prologue to his remarkable career. He set his sights on the skies early on, joining the United States Air Force. There, he became a Second Lieutenant and took off as a pilot. His path led him to fly F-16 fighter jets, where he flew combat missions during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

In 1991, Garan was reassigned as an F-16 Weapons School Instructor Pilot. He later joined the 39th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base. At Eglin, he served as a developmental test pilot and chief F-16 pilot.

In 2009, Garan retired from the Air Force, concluding a distinguished military career marked by countless hours in the cockpit. His service was adorned with accolades like the Distinguished Flying Cross for Combat Valor, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal.

From the skies to the stars

The next chapter of his life became etched among the stars. In July 2000, NASA selected Colonel Garan as a pilot, and he reported for training the following month. His preparation for space exploration was intense, encompassing two years of training and evaluation.

In April 2006, Garan took part in the NEEMO 9 (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) project. Becoming an aquanaut and delving into undersea research. This experience prepared him for the challenges of space exploration and lunar surface procedures.

Garan’s first space mission was STS-124 Discovery, launched on May 31, 2008 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During this mission, he played a pivotal role in delivering the critical systems and crew to the International Space Station. His spacewalks, totaling 20 hours and 32 minutes, were essential for maintaining the station and advancing the mission’s objectives.

Astronaut Ron Garan, STS-124 mission specialist, participates in the mission's first scheduled session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 48-minute spacewalk, Garan and astronaut Mike Fossum (out of frame), mission specialist, loosened restraints holding the Orbiter Boom Sensor System in its temporary stowage location on the space station's starboard truss, prepared the Kibo Japanese Pressurized Module for its installation to the space station, demonstrated cleaning techniques for the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint's (SARJ) race ring, and installed a replacement SARJ Trundle Bearing Assembly.
Ron Garan on a spacewalk – credit: Wikipedia

After this remarkable mission, Garan’s dedication to space exploration only grew. He embarked on his second mission as a crew member on Expedition 27/28, launching aboard the Soyuz TMA-21 “Gagarin” on April 4, 2011. This date honored of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight. During this mission, he participated in the last space-shuttle-based spacewalk.

Like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel (that’s on fire) followed by a high speed crash

Ron Garan on the descent back to Earth in a Soyuz capsule

Beyond the stars

Ron Garan’s career as an astronaut was more than just scientific exploration. It was a mission to connect the realms of space and Earth.

In 2014, he retired from NASA to share the “Orbital Perspective” with the world. He published a book titled “The Orbital Perspective – Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles.”

Then, in February 2016, Ron Garan took on a new role as the chief pilot for World View Enterprises, overseeing robotic flight operations and upcoming human spaceflights via balloon. His passion for space and exploration continued to drive him, as he sought to make space more accessible to all.

He also founded the Manna Energy Foundation, working to provide clean water to villages in Rwanda. This commitment to improving the human condition on Earth showcased his dedication to a better future for all.

Ron Garan’s life is a testament to the potential of human achievement and the unyielding spirit of exploration. From the skies of Yonkers to the endless cosmos beyond, he has left his mark on the world. As an astronaut, military hero, and humanitarian, he exemplifies the limitless possibilities that await those who dare to reach for the stars.

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