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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 2, 2024

Meet the Newest Coast Guard Astronaut

By Zach Shapiro, MyCG Staff

When Cmdr. Andre Douglas’ spacesuit failed underwater during a spacewalk exercise, panic was the last thing on his mind. Instead, his Coast Guard training kicked in. He knew he had to “lean into it, rather than run away from it.” He stayed focused during the remainder of the run and received his National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) spacewalk qualification soon after. 
Douglas is now a NASA astronaut. After his March 5th graduation, he came back to Coast Guard headquarters so the Commandant could commission him as a commander in the Coast Guard Reserves. As an indication of just how unusual the moment was, Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Kristie Canegallo joined Adm. Linda Fagan for the ceremony.  
“It’s really cool to see my dream come true and to share it with my Coast Guard family,” Douglas told MyCG. “I’m on cloud nine seeing all the hard work come full circle.”  
Douglas took the oath flanked by his father, wife, and two sons.  
Douglas will serve on the Commandant’s Advisory Group (CAG), focusing on autonomous maritime systems, public affairs, and recruiting. At NASA, Douglas will balance multiple jobs. While he awaits his flight assignments, he’ll be supporting NASA’s next generation space station called Gateway, the mothership for future lunar missions. He’ll also help develop lunar vehicles and update NASA’s spacesuit design to work on the moon.  
All the while, he will continue his flight, spacewalk, Russian language and robotics training. He knows his time in space is coming. 
Douglas can’t wait to drink in the view of the earth, the moon, and the stars. He’s even picked out the perfect music for that moment: Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to the acclaimed 2014 film, Interstellar. And he’s eager to float and spin in zero gravity whenever he can. 
Douglas graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard academy in 2008 and served as an active-duty Coast Guard officer from 2008 to 2015. During his career, he was a naval architect, salvage engineer, damage control assistant, and officer of the deck. After leaving the Coast Guard, he was a senior professional staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), where he worked on maritime robotics, planetary defense, and space exploration missions. Douglas holds three master’s degrees and a doctorate. He’s dreamt of being an astronaut since he was a child. 
His mother introduced him to radios, telescopes, and the idea of being an astronaut in elementary school. “I was very curious about the universe,” he said. That passion even spilled into his schoolwork; he wrote an eighth-grade report on nuclear fission. To this day, he thrives on being challenged. “I like challenging things,” he emphasized. “If I don’t do something challenging, I get bored.” 
He credits his parents for inspiring his careers at the Coast Guard and NASA. His father served in the Coast Guard and taught at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. His mother, a military nurse, engrained the need to care for others, which drew him to the Coast Guard’s humanitarian service roles. 
Douglas says the Coast Guard prepared him well for astronaut training. “We have unique experiences that can translate just about anywhere,” he noted. The Coast Guard taught him adaptability and flexibility, “to get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” and “to adapt to the needs of the mission.”  
Douglas is the third Coast Guard astronaut, following in the footsteps of Capt. (ret.) Daniel Burbank and Cmdr. (ret.) Bruce Melnick. Burbank, now a professor of mechanical engineering at the Coast Guard Academy, spent 188 days in space on two Space Shuttle missions and one mission aboard the ISS. Previously, Melnick, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, logged over 300 hours in space. 
Burbank encourages uniformed members to follow in the trio’s path. “We need people who are perpetually curious,” he stated. “Who are always learning. Who understand how to operate in dangerous environments.” Douglas shares this hope of seeing other members in space, and he hopes to inspire others to follow their passions and strive to reach their maximum potential. 
Even after being honored for his long list of achievements, Douglas is looking toward the next challenge: “to come up with solutions for sustaining a long-term human presence on the Moon, and eventually, traveling to Mars.” Leaning into these challenges, he says, is woven into the fabric of humanity. “Problem solving and exploration is something that we are born to do.”