National Hispanic Heritage Month: George D. Zamka, Astronaut

NASA astronaut and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) pilot George D. Zamka was born to a Colombian mother and Polish father in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1962. Zamka grew up living at one point or another in each of the following places: New York City; the village of Irvington, New York; the city of Medellin, Colombia; and the city of Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Zamka graduated with a B.S. degree in mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984, and was subsequently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the USMC. He went on to receive extensive training as a pilot for that branch of the U.S. Armed Force. As a key part of his military career, Zamka flew a large number of combat missions during Operations Desert Storm in 1991

Zamka graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 1994. In 1997, he received an M.S. degree in engineering management from the Florida Institute of Technology.

The following year, Zamka was selected for the NASA astronaut program. His first spaceflight took place in 2004, when he served as the pilot on board Space Shuttle Discovery for its STS-120 flight to and from the International Space Station (ISS). This flight made Zamka the first person of Colombian descent to travel into outer space.

In 2008, Zanka and other members of the STS-120 crew went to Colombia to visit the Planetarium of Bogotá in that country’s capital city. While visiting there, they shared their experiences as astronauts with a gathering of 200 students and 50 teachers.

Zamka’s second and final journey into outer space occurred in 2010, when he served as the commander for Space Shuttle Endeavour during its STS-130 flight to and from ISS. The total amount of time that he spent in outer space during both the STS-120 and STS-130 missions combined was 28 days, 20 hours, and 32 minutes.

Zamka retired from the USMC in 2010 and left NASA three years later. Since 2018, he has served as chairman of the board for the Texas-based National Association of Spaceports.

Photo Credit: NASA

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