Three Space Shuttle Astronauts Inducted into Hall of Fame
Space shuttle astronauts Bonnie Dunbar, Curt Brown
and Eileen Collins
joined an elite group of American space heroes as they were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on April 20, during a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. They were being welcomed to the ranks of legendary pioneers such as John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride – distinguished members of the Hall of Fame.
This induction is the twelfth group of space shuttle astronauts named to the Hall of Fame and the first time two women were inducted at the same time.
CNN’s principal correspondent for coverage of NASA’s space programs, John Zarrella, served as master of ceremonies and introduced the attending members of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame as they came forward and took their seats on the stage. During his remarks, he honored Armstrong and Ride who died during the past year.
NASA Administrator and Hall of Fame astronaut Charlie Bolden noted that his fellow astronauts, including the hall of famers at the ceremony, all share a common vision.
"The people sitting on this stage had dreams when they came into this program," he said.
Bolden added that NASA now is working to continue those dreams, a theme that was echoed by those inducted during the Astronaut Hall of Fame ceremony.
"Going to the moon and then on to Mars will take a lot of effort," he said. "Today, for the first time in my lifetime, we're on the precipice of being able to do that."
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana welcomed the trio of honorees back to the Florida spaceport.
“Much has changed here at the Kennedy Space Center since these people were flying on the space shuttle,” said Cabana, also a hall of fame astronaut. "But one thing that hasn't changed is our desire to excel and explore beyond the bounds of planet Earth. We're now stepping up to meet the president's challenge to send astronauts to an asteroid."
Introduced first was Dunbar who was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1981. Inspired by the early efforts of the fledgling space agency of the late 1950s, Dunbar applied to be an astronaut at an early age.
"I did send a letter to NASA when I was about eight or nine," she said. "I was looking at the stars one night, it was a very clear crisp night … and I thought 'this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. This is what my passion is.' "
Dunbar expressed appreciation for the many people who helped her throughout her career to make her dreams come true.
"You never get anywhere without a lot of help," she said. "I had family, I had teachers, I had professors who helped along the way."
Dunbar now leads the University of Houston's STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Center and joined the faculty of the Cullen College of Engineering.
"Now I have an opportunity to give back," she said. "Part of that giving back is to ensure we keep our vision forward and that we continue to explore."
A five-time spaceflight veteran, she served as a mission specialist on STS 61-A, STS-32, STS-50, STS-71 and STS-89. All totaled she logged more than 50 days in space. Following her retirement from NASA in 2005, Dunbar served as president of The Museum of Flight until assuming her current role.
Like Dunbar, Brown began thinking of a career at an early age.
"As far back as I can remember as kid I wanted to fly. Flying was my passion," Brown said.
He also spoke of having a vision for reaching goals.
"Dreams are very, very important," Brown said. "Dreams are what made this country great. Dreams are what made NASA such a great institution and dreams continue to make this nation great. Our dreams determine who we are and what we do in life. Never think and never believe that your vision will not come true."
Brown began his career with NASA in 1987. He went on to fly six space missions, spending over 57 days in space. Brown’s shuttle missions include serving as pilot on STS-47, STS-66, STS-77, and commanding STS-85, STS-95 and STS-103. The STS-95 mission aboard Discovery in 1998 was one of the most memorable as the flight that included Astronaut Hall of Fame charter member Glenn.
Collins expressed appreciation to those who set an example in her life, at home and in her career.
"My mom and dad, they were my heroes," she said.
Collins also thanked Cabana, who was chief of the Astronaut office during her tenure, and the woman astronauts who served before her for being outstanding role models.
She now works to inspire others.
"We live in such a great country with such great opportunities," she said. "I like to talk to young people about STEM. There are many opportunities out there."
Collins was selected to be an astronaut in 1992. The first woman to pilot and command a spacecraft, she is also a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Her accomplishments on four spaceflights include serving as pilot on STS-63, STS-84, and commanding STS-93 and, the return-to-flight mission following the loss of the shuttle Columbia, STS-114. Collins has logged more than 38 days in space. She retired from NASA in 2006.
In the 1980s, the six surviving Mercury Seven astronauts and Gus Grissom's widow, Betty Grissom, conceived the idea of a place where U.S. space travelers could be remembered and honored. The Mercury Seven Foundation and Astronaut Scholarship Foundation were formed and have a role in the current operations of the Hall of Fame which opened its doors in 1990. The scholarship foundation presents numerous scholarships each year and, since its inception, has awarded nearly $3.5 million to college and university students who exhibit motivation, imagination, and exceptional performance in the science or engineering.
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center