NASA SpaceX astronaut, Washington native returns from space station

  • Washington native Kayla Barron was one of the first women to serve aboard a U.S. Navy submarine.
  • Barron’s time at the International Space Station included two space walks.
  • Barron is a part of a project that may see her fly to the Moon in a subsequent mission.

Former Navy submariner Kayla Barron and three other astronauts splashed down off the Florida Coast on Friday following about half a year of conducting experiments and performing repairs aboard the International Space Station.

Barron, a Washington native who served aboard the Bangor-based USS Maine, returned to Earth along with fellow NASA Astronauts Tom Marshburn and Raja Chari and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer. The four piled in the SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft Thursday for a trip back to Earth.

Barron and the others splashed down safely early Friday, local time, off the coast of Tampa.

“Living and working aboard the International Space Station has been a transformative experience and an extraordinary privilege,” Barron said on social media before departing the station. “Part of me is ready to come home – I miss my loved ones dearly, and would not mind sipping coffee out of a cup instead of through a straw – but part of me is having a hard time letting go.”

Related:Pioneering female Navy submariner on the International Space Station has her eye on the moon next

Kayla Barron aboard the International Space Station.

After launching to the station Nov. 10, Barron, 34, conducted two spacewalks, one to repair a damaged antenna and the other to install a roll-out solar array kit. She also helped perform and monitor many scientific experiments, many helping to advance the knowledge of growing food and plants in space. And she humanized her first experience in space through social media, demonstrating the basics of life in microgravity to include a how-to video of washing her own hair.

She also never tired of photographing her home planet, admiring its cloud formations often.

“I hope you are not tired of seeing photos of clouds from space because I’m not tired of taking them yet,” she wrote in April.

Raised in the Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington, Barron graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2010. The Navy lieutenant commander was one of the first women to serve aboard Navy submarines. Barron was a nuclear reactor officer aboard the USS Maine, a “boomer,” or ballistic missile sub, from 2013 to 2015.

It was while working as a flag aide to Vice Adm. Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., the superintendent of the Naval Academy, that she got an opportunity to meet Space Shuttle program veteran astronaut Kathryn “Kaye” Hire. Talking to Hire about space travel reminded her or her service on submarines.

Barron was selected in 2017 to be an astronaut from NASA’s largest applicant pool ever, at more than 18,300.

Barron’s time as an astronaut could be far from over. As part of NASA’s Artemis program, the 34-year-old could even be the first woman to walk on the Moon. Success in the program will inform NASA’s next goal: landing humans on Mars.

Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military and Bremerton for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, josh.farley@kitsapsun.com or on Twitter at @joshfarley.

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