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September 12, 1997

Jennifer McCarter
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1639)

Eileen Hawley
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Release: H97-196

Veteran Shuttle Commander Retires

Shuttle astronaut and Russian space station Mir veteran, John Blaha (Col., USAF Ret.), will retire from NASA on Sept. 26 to become the Assistant Vice President, Integration Engineering, for USAA Corporation in San Antonio, TX.

"John has been a valuable member of the astronaut office throughout his career," said David C. Leestma, director of Flight Crew Operations. "We wish him the best of luck as he pursues these new opportunities."

Selected as an astronaut in 1980, Blaha has extensive flight experience, having flown on six separate Shuttle missions during his career. He was the pilot aboard Discovery for the STS-29 mission in March 1989, and flew again on Discovery as pilot for STS-33 in Nov. 1989. Blaha commanded two Shuttle missions, STS-43 in Aug. 1991 aboard Atlantis and STS-58 on Columbia in Nov. 1993.

Following extensive training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow, Blaha was named as an extended duration crew member to fly on the Mir space station. He launched to Mir as a member of the STS-79 crew in Sept. 1996 and returned to Earth on Atlantis with the STS-81 crew in Jan. 1997, after completing a four-month stay on Mir.

"Brenda and I have thoroughly enjoyed the past 17 years with NASA," Blaha said. 'We are looking forward to our new opportunity in San Antonio. We appreciate all the support we have received over the years."

For complete biographical information on Blaha, or any astronaut, see the NASA Internet biography home page at URL:


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