No Room for Failure: NASA Astronauts and B-2 Spirit pilots share common goal of excellence

Service of the 509th BW and NASA is seen on a global level, and it is imperative for missions to operate without error.

3 min read
By JH
No Room for Failure: NASA Astronauts and B-2 Spirit pilots share common goal of excellence
U.S. Air Force Airmen and NASA personnel discuss the T-38N Talon at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, June 7, 2022. NASA employs the T-38N Talon to prepare astronauts and aircrews to respond to events that may jeopardize the mission. Both NASA and the 509th Bomb Wing utilize the T-38 to enhance training so personnel are ready when the mission calls. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Hommel)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

Two National Aeronautics and Space Administration members flew a T-38N Talon to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to tour the installation and engage in cross-organizational communication with Airmen of the 509th Bomb Wing.



U.S. Army Col. Andrew Morgan, NASA astronaut and Army NASA Detachment commander, and Tom Parent, NASA Aircraft Operations Division pilot, took part in the cross-organization communication opportunity to learn how NASA and B-2 Spirit training overlap.

“Organizations like NASA and the U.S. Air Force bomber community face challenging missions and find unique ways to solve them,” Morgan said. “Sharing ideas across organizations helps open minds and prevent blind spots.”

Pilots from across the 509th BW spoke with Morgan and Parent about similarities in their demanding missions, employment of the T-38 Talon program, training requirements, long duration flights, as well as aircrew and wingmen concepts.

"The Department of Defense does not operate alone; crosstalk with organizations from across the nation and around the world enables us to exchange lessons learned and best practices ensuring our ability to build a highly capable and ready force,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Diehl, 509th BW commander. “Getting the opportunity to learn from these organizations, such as NASA, provides diversity of thought which is critical to remaining the best Air Force in the world.”

As the keepers of the B-2 Spirit, the men and women of the 509th BW are responsible for executing nuclear operations anytime, anywhere, and within that mission long, duration flights are imperative.

Stealth bomber pilots can fly upwards of 40 hours on a single flight, and current astronauts, can train and operate in the International Space Station for up to a year.

Long-duration flights affect crews both mentally and physically, causing stress and bodily strain. Learning how to overcome these stressors in order to execute a mission without failure is a large portion of their training.

“Bomber missions require long duration and precision, so we have to train to be the best on our worst days, and like these astronauts, the environment we operate in provides little room for error,” Diehl said.

Service of the 509th BW and NASA is seen on a global level, and it is imperative for missions to operate without error.

“Like the Airmen of the 509th Bomb Wing, America trusts us to perform a vital mission for the nation and the world,” Morgan said. “We have little margin for mistakes. We take pride in our ability to tackle enormously complex problems, mitigate risk, develop solutions and execute them with precision.”

Mission execution starts with training and the 509th BW pilots and NASA crews use the T-38 Talon as a part of their training process.

Stealth bomber pilots use the T-38A to provide additional flight hours in tactics, troubleshooting, formation flying, situational awareness, quick thinking and to strengthen communication skills between the aircrew.

NASA astronauts and crews use the trainer for similar reasons to prepare them for their space flights.

“Our T-38 Space Flight Readiness Training, which all NASA astronauts participate in, is a huge part in preparing them to respond when events jeopardize the mission and safety of the crew,” Parent said. “Both NASA and the 509th BW utilize the trainer to enhance training so aircrew are ready when the mission calls. The challenges of being qualified in multiple aircraft or space systems demands high-level of training and high standards of performance.”

Bringing world-class aviators and crews together keeps these organizations up-to-date on the demands of high-level training and high standards of performance.

Finding new ways to enhance current partnerships ensures innovation and growth, allowing men and women of the 509th BW to maintain the most lethal combat force in the world.