United States Air Force Academy

Go to home page

Wings of Blue supports Polaris Dawn crew

Members of the Polaris Dawn crew including Mission Specialist Sarah Gillis, Medical Officer Anna Menon and Mission Commander Jared Isaacman Members of the Polaris Dawn crew including Mission Specialist Sarah Gillis, Medical Officer Anna Menon and Mission Commander Jared Isaacman take time to pose for a photo before completing the AM-490 basic freefall parachute training at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Jan. 27, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)

U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – When it comes to out-of-this-world training, cadets and faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy are leading the way, as members of the SpaceX Polaris Dawn crew discovered Jan. 27.

The four-person crew completed AM-490 basic freefall parachute training alongside cadets, as preparation for their upcoming mission.

The course prepares students to conduct a solo, freefall skydive in their first jump over the Academy’s Davis Airfield. AM-490 is taught by staff of the 98th Flying Training Squadron and cadets of the Wings of Blue Parachute Demonstration and Competition teams.

This training has taken place at the Academy since 1962. Nearly 800 Academy and ROTC cadets earn basic parachutist wings annually on completion of five solo freefall jumps as part of the course.

Skydiving supports space operations

“Skydiving seems to have many of the same qualifications that we’re looking for in terms of executing complex procedures in a high-consequence, high-stress environment,” said Mission Commander Jared Isaacman. “This is the best place in the world possible to train for it. Your first jump is a solo jump so that is definitely checking all the stressor boxes that we’re looking for, and you’re trained by the best skydivers in the world. That’s what brought us here.”

The Polaris Dawn crew will conduct space missions not attempted in more than 50 years. Ahead of a planned spacewalk, the Dragon spacecraft will vent to a vacuum and the crew will depart in new-design pressurized space suits. To prepare for the mission, the crew has sought team training opportunities in very high-stress environments.

“We fly fighter jets, we climb mountains and scuba dive all in addition to our academic and simulator campaigns,” said Isaacman. “The Academy training was beyond our expectations. We knew it was going to be amazing; we had no idea how incredible it would be.”

2nd Lt. Jack Dillon conducts an initial gear check for Jared Isaacman,2nd Lt. Jack Dillon, 98th Flying Training Squadron standardization and evaluation training officer, conducts an initial gear check for Jared Isaacman, Polaris Dawn mission commander, before his first of five solo freefall skydivers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)

Polaris Dawn’s mission

Polaris Dawn is scheduled to launch no earlier than March 2023. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Dragon capsule with the Polaris Dawn mission from the historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon and the Polaris Dawn crew will spend up to five days in orbit.

“Wings of Blue was honored to support the Polaris Dawn crew as they prepare for their upcoming mission,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Tuchscher, 98th Flying Training Squadron Commander. “This was a historic opportunity for our team to contribute to the Polaris program as it endeavors to rapidly advance human spaceflight capabilities, support critical research and serve the betterment of humanity.”

The Polaris Dawn crewmembers are: Jared Isaacman, mission commander; Scott Poteet, mission pilot; Sarah Gillis, mission specialist; and Anna Menon, mission specialist and medical officer.

See more photos on Flickr and learn more about airmanship at the Academy.