Scott Tingle was among those in attendance at Kennedy Space Center in Florida when the last space shuttle mission launched on July 8, 2011.
As the shuttle Atlantis took off from the pad and blasted into the atmosphere, Tingle watched and wondered if he had missed his chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of going into space.
“I remember watching it and thinking ‘There it goes. There goes my shot,’” Tingle told an audience gathered to hear him speak at the Golden Spike 150 celebration in Promontory on May 10. “I was so sad. I missed it by that much.”
As it turns out, Tingle did get his chance to be a NASA astronaut seven years later, when he served as flight engineer on Expeditions 54 and 55 to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, returning to Earth on June 3, 2018.
On the same day as the Golden Spike celebration, Northrop Grumman Corp. hosted Tingle at its Promontory facility — the place that helped ignite his passion for space travel more than three decades ago.
A U.S. Navy pilot chosen for NASA’s 20th astronaut class in 2009, Captain Tingle interned with Morton Thiokol, now Northrop Grumman, at the Promontory facility as a graduate student. He remembers working a series of cold flow tests during the reusable solid rocket motor redesign effort, and is quick to acknowledge the role this internship played in his career path.
“In 1987 I was on my way to graduate school, and Morton Thiokol Wasatch gave me the great honor of bringing me out to Utah as an intern,” Tingle recalls. “I learned a lot during my internship and am very grateful I was given the opportunity.”
Prior to his expedition departure last year, Tingle reconnected with former colleagues and current Northrop Grumman executives Charlie Precourt and Kent Rominger, both space shuttle-era astronauts who offered words of encouragement to the first-time flier. While on his expedition, Tingle had the unique opportunity to help capture and dock to Cygnus, a Northrop Grumman-manufactured Space Station resupply spacecraft, which launched via Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket.
Following his May 10 visit to Northrop Grumman in Promontory, Tingle headed over to Golden Spike National Historic Park, where he answered a variety of written question from the audience.
As expected, many of the questions were about space travel, and he was happy to oblige, talking about everything from the feeling of breaking through into orbit, to how being in space makes a person taller, but also weaker, due to the lack of gravity.
Tingle had high praise for the shuttle program, but also talked excitedly about the next generation of space launch vehicles, for which Northrop Grumman’s Promontory campus is playing a key role in the development and testing of the motors that will send those vehicles into space.
“It was a wonderful program. It was an elegant design that achieved all its mission objectives,” Tingle said. “It was built to build the space station, and it did that, but it was very expensive, and the longer we operated it, the longer we put off getting into our future programs.”
He said the last eight years have been challenging as the new breed of launch vehicles have taken shape, but was optimistic about the future of the American space program.
“It takes consistency, dedication and personal sacrifice,” he said, “but I think in the long run you’re all going to have a great space program, and you’ve got a really good chance of going to the moon and Mars.”
After his presentation, Tingle presented Box Elder County Commissioner Stan Summers, a personal friend, with a framed plaque that included, among other things, an American flag that flew with Tingle on a mission to the space station.