Astronaut Biography: Mark L. Polansky

Astronaut Biography: Mark L. Polansky
NASA astronaut Mark Polansky, commander of STS-116, poses for a portrait. (Image credit: NASA/JSC.)

NAME: Mark L. Polansky
NASA Astronaut

PERSONAL DATA: Born June 2, 1956 in Paterson, NewJersey. Considers Edison, New Jersey his hometown. Enjoys ice hockey, snow skiing, light aircraft flying, music andthe arts. Married to the former Lisa Ristow of San Antonio, Texas. They have onedaughter. His mother, Edith Polansky, resides inEdison, New Jersey.

EDUCATION: Graduated from John P. Stevens HighSchool, Edison, New Jersey, in 1974; received a bachelor of science degree inaeronautical and astronautical engineering, and amaster of science degree in aeronautics and astronautics, from PurdueUniversity, both in 1978.

ORGANIZATIONS: Member of the Society ofExperimental Test Pilots, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics,and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

SPECIAL HONORS: Distinguished Graduate of the USAFTest Pilot School (1987). Distinguished Graduate of USAFUndergraduate Pilot Training (1980). Recipient of theUSAF Flying Training Award (1980). Awarded Air ForceMeritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal with two Oak LeafClusters.

EXPERIENCE: Polanskyreceived an Air Force commission upon graduation from Purdue University in1978. He earned his pilot wings in January 1980 at Vance Air Force Base (AFB),Oklahoma.

From 1980 to 1983, he was assigned to Langley AFB,Virginia, where he flew the F-15 aircraft. In 1983, Polanskytransitioned to the F-5E aircraft and served as an Aggressor Pilot, where hetrained tactical aircrews to defeat enemy aircraft tactics. He was assigned inthis capacity to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, and Nellis AFB, Nevada, until he was selected to attend USAFTest Pilot School, Edwards AFB, California, in 1986.

Upon graduation, he was assigned to Eglin AFB,Florida, where he conducted weapons and systems testing in the F-15, F-15E, andA-10 aircraft. Polansky left active duty in 1992 topursue a career at NASA. He has loggedover 5,000 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Polanskyjoined NASA in August 1992, as an aerospace engineer and research pilot. He wasassigned to the Aircraft Operations Division of the Johnson Space Center. Hisprimary responsibilities involved teaching the astronaut pilots Space Shuttlelanding techniques in the Shuttle Trainer Aircraft and instructing astronautpilots and mission specialists in the T-38 aircraft. Polanskyalso conducted flight testing of the NASA T-38 avionics upgrade aircraft.

Selected as an Astronaut Candidate by NASA in April1996, Polansky began training in August 1996. Havingcompleted two years of training and evaluation, he was initially assigned as amember of the Astronaut Support Personnel team at the Kennedy Space Center,supporting space shuttlelaunches and landings. He served as pilot on STS-98(2001) and has logged over 309 hours in space.

Polansky was Chief of the CAPCOM Branch fromApril 2002 to December 2002. He served as Chief Instructor Astronaut from April2003 to January 2004. He has also served as Chief of the Return to Flight and OrbiterRepair Branches. Polansky is assigned to commandthe crew of STS-116, an assembly flight to the International Space Station.

SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-98 Atlantis (February 9-20, 2001). The STS-98crew continued the task of building and enhancing the International SpaceStation by delivering the U.S.laboratory module Destiny. The shuttle spent seven days dockedto the station while Destinywas attached and threespacewalks were conducted to complete its assembly.

The crew also relocateda docking port, and deliveredsupplies and equipment to the resident Expedition1 crew. Mission duration was 12 days, 21 hours, 20 minutes.

Last updated: February 2006

  • Mission Discovery: The ISS Rewiring Job of NASA's STS-116
  • VIDEO:STS-98: Mark Polansky's Destiny in Space
  • IMAGES:Shuttle Atlantis' STS-98 Launch Day Gallery
  • STS-98Mission Atlantis: Delivering Destiny to Space
  • CompleteSpace Shuttle Mission Coverage
  • The Great Space Quiz: Space Shuttle Countdown
  • All About Astronauts

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

NASA Archives
U.S. Space Agency

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: