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A Gathering of Space Heroes
04.26.04
 
Astronauts have a special bond.

They've flown side by side and experienced moments together that most of us can only dream of: the rigors of training, the exhilaration of space flight and the satisfaction of completing challenging missions high above Earth.

Main entrance to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.They also celebrate each other's achievements. On May 1, when five Space Shuttle astronauts are inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, an impressive array of America's space heroes will gather at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to honor their distinguished colleagues. The event will be broadcast on NASA Television at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
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Image to left: Five astronauts from the Space Shuttle program will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, bringing the number of space explorers honored to 57. Credit: Astronaut Hall of Fame

Four of the astronauts to be inducted are: Kathryn D. Sullivan, the first American woman to participate in a spacewalk; Richard O. Covey, pilot of the Shuttle's first mission following the Challenger tragedy; Norman E. Thagard, the first American to spend time on Russia's Mir space station; and the late Francis R. "Dick" Scobee, pilot of the first Shuttle mission to repair a satellite and commander of the ill-fated Challenger mission.

Also being inducted is NASA's Deputy Administrator, Frederick D. Gregory. An accomplished astronaut, he piloted one Space Shuttle mission and commanded two more, becoming the first African-American to command a space mission. After a distinguished 30-year Air Force career, he retired with the rank of Colonel.

"I am so proud of Fred and grateful for all the years of service he's given to this agency," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "I congratulate him and his wife Barbara on this tremendous honor."

"The opportunity to serve this country as an astronaut has always been honor enough for me," Gregory said. "I appreciate the recognition from the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and I feel proud to be in the company of the other remarkable explorers being inducted this year."

Festivities will kick off April 30 with an invitation-only dinner event honoring the 2004 inductees. On the morning of May 1, a "Moon Walker" brunch and "Mercury" lunch will set the stage for the induction ceremony.

Current Hall of Fame astronauts will introduce those being honored. Jim Lovell, commander of the famed Apollo 13 mission and president of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, will present each inductee with an official medal. With more than 20 former astronauts on hand, the event surely will be highlighted by lighthearted jokes and fond memories.

The induction of this third class of Shuttle astronauts will bring the number of space explorers honored in the Hall of Fame to 57. Inductees are carefully chosen by a committee of current and former NASA officials, journalists, historians and other space experts. Astronauts' overall contributions to space exploration, as well as their achievements in space, are equally important to committee members.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, established in 1984 as the Mercury Seven Foundation, serves as a consultant in the operation of the Hall of Fame, supervises the induction process and works with the astronauts to arrange for display of their personal artifacts in the museum in Titusville, Fla. The foundation provides $170,000 in scholarships each year to college students pursuing degrees in scientific fields.

Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts operates the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Astronaut Hall of Fame for NASA, and contributes to the foundation's scholarship program.

For more information about the induction events or to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/pressRoom/pressRoomDetails.asp?pressId=18
 
 
Anna Heiney
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center