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Hall Welcomes Four New Astronauts
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inducted four members in its 2008 class. Image above: Astronauts Loren Shriver, left, Bryan O'Connor, John Blaha and Robert Cabana were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 3, 2008. The astronauts served in the space shuttle program. Photo credit: NASA
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Four astronauts who helped stretch the boundaries of the space shuttle fleet's capabilities strode Saturday into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame to take their places among America's space heroes.

Loren Shriver, Bryan O'Connor, John Blaha and Robert Cabana were honored for their roles in some of NASA's greatest achievements. Their work included, respectively, the deploying NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, studying life sciences in orbit, studying endurance in space and laying the cornerstone in orbit of the International Space Station.

Surrounded by their peers on a stage erected beneath a Saturn V moon rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the four were also honored for their contributions to the space program while outside a shuttle cockpit.

Cabana and O'Connor still serve as NASA executives. Shriver is a vice president of the United Space Alliance and Blaha's work while an astronaut played a large role in the improvement of space shuttle systems. Since retiring from NASA, Blaha has served in the Executive Management Group of the United Services Automobile Association.

Their professional accomplishments well known, each inductee listened as their personal characters were highlighted by hall of Fame members.

"You haven’t lived until you've seen the Bryan O'Connor very Irish version of the very Italian Dr. Guido Sarducci," former astronaut Brewster Shaw told the crowd. Then he described O'Connor's part in secretly hiding the Marine Corps anthem in his crewmates' audio tapes.

Former astronaut Charles Bolden talked of Shriver's passions for debate, alluding to the delight Shriver's children take in bringing up a political story they know will set the former astronaut's fists to pounding on any nearby furniture.

Cabana's resume includes so many titles that former astronaut Michael Coates said, "It's fun to tease Bob that he just can't hold a job."

John Blaha's accomplishments include studying human endurance in space by spending 128 days on the Russian space station Mir. But former astronaut Fred Gregory jabbed that anyone who talked to Blaha was unknowingly about to try their own endurance because the astronaut likes to talk in exquisite detail about any subject, all the while promising to take "only a minute" of someone's time.

Asking which high school Blaha graduated from, Gregory said he ended up finding out the name of the school, the name of Blaha's wrestling coach, the signature wrestling move of the team and exactly how to perform it.

Together, the four men make up the seventh class of space shuttle astronauts inducted into the hall of fame. They were chosen by a committee of former astronauts and aerospace journalists.

The ceremony was part of the work by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation to inspire and reward scientific and mathematic studies. The foundation sponsors 20 college scholarships of $10,000 each for science and math students.

Al Worden, a former astronaut who orbited the moon on Apollo 15, said the foundation now offers the largest monetary merit awards in the United States for math and science undergraduates.

The inductions also came on the same weekend that the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame opened its space shuttle wing marking the accomplishments the program.

Steven Siceloff
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center