Former Edwards Air Force Base and NASA Dryden employees Harry Talbot, John Bennett, Rodney Bogue and Denis Bessette share a laugh during a luncheon program at Dryden Sept. 14 for present and former employees who had worked on the Space Shuttle Program over the past 35 years. › View Larger Photo
More than 300 retirees and former employees of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake and their guests joined current Dryden employees Sept. 14 at a Space Shuttle Tribute luncheon and program in Dryden's shuttle hangar.
The informal reunion featured both verbal and video highlights of NASA Dryden's support of space shuttle development and operations over four decades. In a video message recorded for the event, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden recognized Dryden's unsung heroes and early employees of the shuttle program and offered an outline of the next steps in NASA's human exploration of space.
|Retired space shuttle carrier aircraft maintenance chief Pete Seidl autographs a poster-size photo of the first landing of the shuttle Columbia at Edwards Air Force Base during a tribute luncheon for present and former NASA, Air Force and Naval personnel and their guests. › View Larger Photo||Retired NASA Dryden research pilot Tom McMurtry, who flew the modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft along with a variety of other unique aircraft during his tenure at Dryden, chats with Dryden's supervising videographer of Arcata Associates Lori Losey. McMurtry and retired Dryden center director Kevin Petersen (background) were among more than 300 present and former NASA, Air Force and Navy employees and their guests who attended a shuttle staff tribute luncheon at NASA Dryden. › View Larger Photo|
The program also featured comments from NASA astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow about early space shuttle testing at NASA Dryden and his recollections of his flights on shuttle missions STS-117 and STS-128, the last shuttle mission to land at Edwards in September 2009.
"I've had the opportunity to meet many folks here today who were with the entire program, more than 30 years, and all the way dating back to the Approach and Landing Tests," Sturckow commented. "It's a great honor for me to hear some of the stories and enjoy some of the unique moments that you've been able to share with me today."
Retired NASA astronaut Vance Brand, who flew aboard the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program mission in 1975, the first joint American-Russian space mission, and on three shuttle missions before serving in a variety of management roles at NASA Dryden, also offered remarks about the Space Shuttle Program and his recollections of Dryden's shuttle program management.
Current Dryden center director David McBride also recalled highlights of Dryden's contributions to developmental testing for the shuttle program, including the Approach and Landing Tests with the prototype Enterprise in 1977, shuttle brake and drag chute testing and the center's support of the STS-114 Return to Flight effort in 2005 following the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew in early 2003.
|Retired NASA astronaut Vance Brand was among dignitaries who addressed present and former employees who were involved in space shuttle support and their guests at a space shuttle tribute luncheon Sept. 14 at NASA Dryden. › View Larger Photo||NASA astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow recalled early space shuttle tests at Dryden and recapped shuttle missions STS-117 and STS-128 on which he flew during a space shuttle employees' tribute luncheon at NASA Dryden. › View Larger Photo|
"Flight research work conducted at Dryden enabled the shuttle program," he said. "Without the lifting body work led by Dale Reed and Milt Thomson – there would not have been a shuttle. Without the groundbreaking X-15 – there would not have been a shuttle. Without the F-8 Digital Fly by Wire program – there would not have been a shuttle," he said.
Pointing out that the space shuttle enabled the Hubble Space Telescope, put the Compton Gamma-ray and Chandra x-ray great observatories into space and built the International Space Station, McBride said the shuttle program "provided the nation with over three decades of discovery, innovation, and inspiration" and was enabled "by the commitment and dedication of thousands of people in the design, build, and operations of the system."
Noting that 59 of the shuttle orbital flights – or about 40 percent of all 133 landings - landed at Edwards, McBride pointed to the fact that NASA Dryden and Air Force personnel had to be ready to support all shuttle landings, even if they finally landed elsewhere.
"You were ready for 100 percent of all flights," he said. "You were ready to support all flights and every landing opportunity. And you never failed or faulted in being ready. That is a record of accomplishment and pride."
Much of the unique shuttle landing recovery and ground support equipment at Dryden was on display outside the hangar during the event, and the two modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and a modified Gulfstream II Shuttle Training Aircraft were on display on the adjacent aircraft ramp.